A Friday night concert, June 15, 2017.
(Loosely edited.) Legends series: “The Venue,” concert spot, at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond Indiana. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly with opening act Marshall Thompson and the Chi-Lites.
Concert-goers melanin-popping, dressed in white. Our Black skin was the dark from which all light and love were flowing.
The pre-concert jammy jam with Ramonski Luv, who is still saying his familiar, bang bang bang…skeet skeet skeet. We do know that’s nasty right?!?!?! Lol lol lol.
Ramonski Luv, a permanent fixture on the Chicago radio scene, V103. He kept telling the dj to “play yo “box”…,” and the dj obliged and got us feeling all nostalgic and like we were sitting on the bar at the local tavern or at a family gathering at a bid whist or spades table.
The blues is what really got folks right though: arms swaying, booty popping, hips gyrating, hands waving and knees bent. It was an intergenerational thing, sistas and brothas in our 30s and up. When you from Chicago (and surrounding Black communities) the blues is in yo dna, and when Johnny Taylor’s, “Last Two Dollars…” drops, you cant sit still.
I didn’t know there’d be an opening act, so it was a pleasant surprise for Marshall Thompson and the Chi-Lites to hit the stage. I grew up listening to “dusties,” what us Chitown folk call ole skool R&B music. When I’d go to “Jew Town” (Maxwell Street) with my uncle he’d buy mixed tapes of dusties, funk and hiphop, my uncle really wasn’t into house music, though it’s a Chicago thing. Therefore, it was a treat to see Marshall and the Chi-Lites.
Marshall is a member of my childhood church. My mom told me when she last saw him, he was in a wheelchair. There is a special place in my heart for elders who’ve experienced a stroke, my grandmother is a stroke survivor. Marshall appears to have left side paralysis, swelling and his speech is impaired. But here’s the thing, with assistance, he came on that stage styled in white as the only living original member of the Chi-Lites, and he did him. He is a singer, songwriter and musician. He talked about how the name of the group was originally Hi-Lites and it was changed to Chi-Lites for his beloved Chicago.
Marshall also joked about how he originally didn’t like hip-hop but when artists started asking to sample the Chi-Lites music and those ASCAP checks started rolling in, he was a-okay with hip-hop and the “youngins.” He named dropped: Beyonce (Crazy in Love), K. Michelle (V.S.O.P.), Public Enemy (Who Stole the Soul), Jay Z (December 4th) and Talib Kweli (Guerrilla Monsoon Rap) all having sampled Chi-Lites music.
The last time I saw Marshall was at the Soul Train 40 Year Celebration exhibit, concert and dance party in 2011, at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennial Park, that was also the last time I saw Don Cornelius and Herb Kent, both are now ancestors.
After escorting Marshall on stage, the rest of the Chi-Lites two-stepped on stage in their yellow suits and yellow wide-brimmed fedoras cocked to the side. They were stuttin’ on us.
After the Chi-Lites, it was time for Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. Before bringing out Maze, Ramonski Luv let us know that his “spiritual father” was present. The minister was in the building: Minister Louis Farrakhan and FOI were there to get their Frankie Bev and Maze on too. The Minister and his entourage were sitting in the same row, a section over from us. He was low key and enjoying himself. It gave me warm fuzzies of soulfulness! I just wanted to yell I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE!
When I tell you that my mama and I got our whole entire lives when Maze came on…My Gawdt! I soooooo love my people. Black folk freely engulfed in the feel goodness of music and heart. We were definitely one, and the vibe was soooooo healing and chill. Of course, folk started steppin’ in the aisles and it supported the communal feeling in the concert space. Strangers were steppin’ and groovin’ with one another. If it wasn’t a brotha around, sistas, we do what we do, grab another sista and get it in. It was communal healing going on, and seeing the security staff singing and dancing as well was refreshing. At first security was letting folk dance in the aisle, but eventually they asked people to clear the aisles, but that didn’t last long. Fat, skinny, tall, short, on canes, drunk, sober….everyone was in the pocket of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.
Frankie Beverly sings with so much heart and it’s like he goes back to the place/space he was in when the songs were first written, recorded…performed. He was also filled to the brim on the love of the audience as he fondly said, “I’m 70, ya’ll ain’t gone kill me up here.” He’d been ill the last few years and when I’ve seen him on award shows, or on YouTube videos, his voice wasn’t as smooth or as strong as it previously was, but Friday night, he fed off this crowd and his voice was durable, robust and it was smoother than I’d previously heard. My official nickname for him is now “Pops,” he reminded me of the cool, smooth uncle at the family bbq, with his signature baseball cap on.
As this being apart of the legends’ series Pops Frankie, like Marshall had previously done, talked about the history of the group. Originally from Philly and later going to Oakland/St. Fran, it was Marvin Gaye who saw them at a show and took them under his wing. They toured with Marvin and established a following. Pops Frankie also shared that Rome, on the congos, has been with him for 50 years. Maze also includes Carl Wheeler, on the keys, who used to be with Tony Toni Tone—he also (co)wrote some of the 3 Toni’s hits.
But let me tell ya who stole the show and was tryna get all the claps and tha sistas panties…lol lol lol…Jubu Smith, the lead guitarist, he also used to play with Tony Toni Tone. His solo on “Golden Time of Day” was skillful, sexy and his deadpan facial expression as he played and walked back and forth on stage, was sooooo “give it to me bae-beeee….” Lol lol lol.
Of course they did the classics and I was weak when they did “We are One,” “Golden Time of Day,” “Happy Feelings,” and “Before I Let You Go.”
I had an absolutely feel good night! It was a night of healing energy! This was also the kick off of celebrating my bearthday alllllll summerrrrrrr longggggg! Okay okay okay…more importantly my mama’s bearthday and retirement continued celebration as well.
#SheBloomsBlack #SummerConcerts #BlackGirlJoy