With each year that passes certain convictions become strengthened. As I entered my birthday season, as I have for the past few years, it comes through with laser vision perfect clarity, that the best decade for Soul/R&B music was the 1970s…. BAR NONE!!!!! The musicianship and production alone render that statement as fact. Experts at their instruments word in tandem to create sound beds that were layered, lush and funky all at once. Decades since have for the most part gone the route of computerized instruments and various technological advances in the recording process to make the process a little easier and perhaps cost effective but diminished a key ingredient of what gave the music its depth. As powerful as those instrumentals were it’s hard to imagine that the content used to address social issues, such as poverty, racism, and inequality or personal experiences of love that peaked or plummeted, often augmented perfectly, or surpassed the music itself. Emotional, melancholy lyrics and smooth, soulful vocals emanating from gospel, jazz, and LIFE; yeah! With all due respect to the innovators that are no longer here with us in the flesh (Marvin, Aretha, Barry, Curtis, James, Michael, Isaac, et. al.) when we get chances to honor and groove with those that are with us, we need to seize that with the swiftness. That’s what the Hulu Theatre offered in the double bill of fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The mighty O’Jays with special guest, the empress of soul-Gladys Knight for the “Last Stop on the Love Train” for the former.
The full festive celebration was somewhat derailed due to original group member Eddie Levert missing the Train due to a bout with COVID, the presence of Walter Williams maintained the integrity of the original songs with his velvety smooth, distinctive vocal stylings. As for Ms. Knight, the only thing to find fault with is time restriction and endless catalog.
A few days after this performance, to paraphrase a great melody, I was leaving on that midnight plane; Vegas bound. Ironically, I went to check out a couple of the new torch bearers of the soul music mantle, just as a hot topic had entered the ethos. Seems like Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs is of the belief that R&B is dead, yet I was headed to see artist with lengthy residencies. Day one was the featured act at The Zappos Theater, located at Planet Hollywood for JOHN LEGEND “Love In Las Vegas.” As a multiplatinum singer, songwriter, producer, and television personality Legend has amassed a diverse and vast fanbase. He resides in rarefied company that has achieved the ultimate plaudits the entertainment industry has to offer as he is one of the few that have the Grammy (12 times), Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards. Musically he has managed to straddle the line of soulful yet popular tunes. He looks to repeat and expand past success with the release of his eighth studio album “LEGEND.” Set to be released by Republic Records on Sept. 19, “LEGEND” is a double album (broken up in ACT I and ACT 2) slated to take listeners on a journey of joy, pain, and healing, per a press release. He reveals, “Until this point, I’ve never used an aspect of my name as the title of an album. I had to earn that, to live up to it by delivering in the performance and the music. And this is me saying, I’m proud of who I am, I’m confident in the work I’ve done, and I’m just going to declare it.” With feature collaborations with Rick Ross, Muni Long, Jazmine Sullivan, Jada Kingdom, Rapsody, Ledisi, Jhene Aiko, Ty Dolla $ign and Saweetie the Vegas shows have room to be an unexpected surprising unique experience that further displays the diversity of R&B/Soul music. Dates for the remaining shows available on TICKETMASTER are as follows:
Fri, Oct 14 – Sat Oct 15, 2022, 8 p.m.
Wed, Oct 19, 2022, 8 p.m.
Fri, Oct 21 – Sat, Oct 22, 2022, 8 p.m.
Wed, Oct 26, 2022, 8 p.m.
Fri, Oct 28 – Sat, Oct 29, 2022, 8 p.m.
The second show was the hottest act and ticket in town in “An Evening with Silk Sonic” at the Dolby Theatre. This set as well as the album is one of the strongest arguments against the thoughts of Diddy. The album is reminiscent of R&B at its zenith and assures the genre remains an important force in the music industry for years to come.
Mary J Blige, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul explained best, “You can’t kill something that’s in our DNA. It’s gonna keep transitioning from generation to generation to generation to generation. They were trying to kill it. But you can’t kill us because we’re already in the bloodline.” For emphasis, she continues, “You can’t kill ‘SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE,’ ‘WHAT’S THE 411.’ You can’t kill Etta James, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Jazmine Sullivan, and SWV.”
In theory she has a point, but not so fast. To be continued……til then enjoy the nightlife.