Frankie Beverly and Maze: A class act
4/17/2014, 4:03 p.m.
Brothers heading out to the Beacon Theatre Saturday, April 12 had an easy night of preparation. We realized that no matter what we adorned, we weren’t going to be the smoothest or the coolest cat in the room. And out of deference, perish the thought of wearing white or a cap. This night was all about feeling good and ultimately paying respect.
Despite what supporting act Talent joked about, we even got there in time for the most part, just in case. Not gonna front, Talent got it in. He’s a funny dude, but we, the crowd, had a different agenda.
Host of WBLS’ “The Quite Storm,” Lenny Greene forewarned, “To anybody sitting behind me, I apologize now, but I will be standing up. This is going to be a party.”
He didn’t exaggerate. With the band already in pocket, sauntering out with the trademark white uniforms to center stage was a complete picture: Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly, was in the house!
As much as I’d like to say the group remained intact for the past 40-some odd years, no can do. The band has incurred a few face lifts, most notably with the passing of one of the original Maze members, McKinley
“Bug” Williams, who played percussion and sang background. Williams passed in 2011. “Bug was my brother,” recalls Beverly. “He was with me for 50 years. We were 15 and 16 when we met. He was an excellent, schooled musician, top of the line. He knew music. He was the father of the band, very much like the guardian of the band. He was very strong-willed and very well respected. He was a good person; he kept the band in line. Someone asked me if I was going to replace him. I said, ‘That’s impossible, there is no replacing Bug.’ We started out as seven back in Philly, and we are now back to seven. And I really feel that’s the way it should be. I love my brother, Bug, and miss him so much. But thankfully he is still very much in our music night after night.”
Carl Wheeler (keyboards/synthesizers), Jubu (rhythm/lead guitar), Larry Kimpel (bass guitar), Calvin Napper (drums) and Vance Taylor (keyboards/synthesizers) are undoubtedly skilled musicians, and as long as original members Beverly and Roame (congas/ background vocals) are anchors, the new incarnate of Maze will maintain the soulful credibility that the fans have come to love and trust for decades.
Setting the night off by bringing out the inner Southern girl in the women of the tristate area, the band was about to cook. By song three, all chair dancing ceased and everybody rose up in unison to, appropriately, “We Are One.” As they should, according to Beverly, “‘We Are One’ jumps out at me every night. People react the same way. They recognize the song’s truth. I see them look at each other and say, ‘Wow, we are one. You are right.’ I just love what that song does to people, how it unites us all. That song moves me and turns into a spiritual thing.”
He shared on stage that sense of spirituality with the crowd, saying, “There’s people out there with double, triple platinum sellers, but they don’t have what we have here. This is that real love, and we truly appreciate y’all for always being there.”
No need to dwell on the set list, as anyone who’s experienced a Maze show knows the staples: “Joy and Pain,” “Back in Stride,” “Can’t Get Over You,” “Before I Let Go” and, as a nice surprise, “While I’m Alone.” The show was about that communal bond. As he left us with an encore performance, he stated his appreciation of the individual attendees at the Beacon. “I wanna thank you, my dude!”
New York gets another batch of Philadelphia soul next week as Musiq SoulChild and Kindred the Family Soul bring it to B.B. Kings (237 W. 42nd St.) Friday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 27 at 8 p.m., respectively. Tickets are available at the box office.
I’m out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.