Persuasions and Gospel Hummingbirds March 26, 2006
Persuasions and Gospel Hummingbirds at Cerritos: Less Is More, More or Less.
By Glen Creason
In the time the country calls “March madness” in honor of our national basketball tournament there was a mismatch at the Performing Arts Center on Sunday. In a show with a spiritual bent the verse “many are called but few are chosen” rang true for a concert that had two distinctive halves of action. The Persuasions, oddly enough the “warm-up” act here dominated and dazzled throughout, winning the hall for a solid, sensational hour. When we filed out for intermission I said to a friend “I wouldn’t want to follow these guys on stage.” This proved to be straight prophecy, unfortunately. The Gospel Hummingbirds seemed to be off their game and made up for in volume what they lacked in musical marksmanship. There were more than a few expressions of worship at the conclusion but not all positive.
The best you could say about the headliners were that their hearts were in the right place and the songs they sang were sanctified certainly. Yet, the wall of sound their message was couched in buried much of the delicacy of their three part harmonies and gave sameness to melodies the crowd might have recognized and joined with joyfully. The result was rather mundane R&B with a some shouts toward heaven that were difficult to hear in the thunderous bass-percussion waves that drove some from the hall of gospel like Adam and Eve high-tailed out from the garden in Genesis.
On the other hand, the Persuasions with nary an instrument on stage filled the great hall to the top row with rejoicing produced only by their strong six voices and seamless harmonies. The set was marvelously eclectic with great stuff from the length and breadth of popular music. Starting with the appropriate “Still Aint Got No Band” the gentlemen gilded several genres with their talents including the doo wop silk of “Save the Last Dance for Me,” a wonderfully fresh “Besame Mucho,” and an absolutely breathtaking “People Get Ready” that placed this classic on a hall of fame shelf for all to see.
Still, this was a gospel show and the Persuasions can more than make a joyful noise unto the Lord. They gave us “the Fire Next Time,” “I Want to Be Ready,” a high-octane “Christian’s Automobile,” a somber but potent “Lord’s Prayer,” the transcendent “Touch the Hem of His Garment” and a rousing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The group even brought in the incredible young fella Reggie Moore who made the best of his time, giving energy and strength to the already powerfully persuasive group. Yet, demonstrating their experience and musical gifts Jayotis Washington, Jim Hayes, Joe Russell, Ray Sanders and B.J. Jones provided highlights as different as a send up of the Mario Lanza smash for the mid-1950’s “So In Love,” the crowd-pleasing “Buffalo Soldiers” “the Good Ship Lollipop” for the kids, the wonderful “Gypsy Woman” and as a cherry on top the U2 beauty “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” For 44 years the Persuasion have been proving that the human voice is the most powerful and perfect instrument in music and on this afternoon their point was more than well taken.