Kool and the Gang September 18, 2009
By Glen Creason
Friday night was party night at the Center for the Performing Arts which almost sounds formal in comparison to the sweaty, full throttle funk-a-thon that took place there for a couple of high octane hours. On a big, Vegas-style stage twelve of the gang filled the hall with thick, bass and percussion heavy sounds that the exceedingly rowdy crowd reacted to by staying on their feet for the entire set. The sound came in fuzzy walls of bumps and grinds with all the complexity of Atari Pong from the decade when Kool and this same gang made their first hit records. This is not lyrics driven music, it is booty-driven and there was much shaking of that same part of the anatomy and points north in front of the stage. Pity the house staff that was overwhelmed by well-oiled enthusiasts who were invited by the band up to hug the footlights where the fire lines are drawn. Oh well, it was quite a sight to see even if it did invite chaos.
The evening opened with “Fresh” and most certainly gave a hint at what would follow as the entire place got up on their feet and danced. For the most part this kind of energetic pulse continued with others of a similar vein including “Stepping,” “Hollywood Swinging,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Funky Stuff” which gave the crowd some pounding groove that allowed them to show off their stuff, especially the many highly pneumatic ladies in their Fredericks of Hollywood ensembles, many of whom could not have been born when the song first hit the airwaves. There were some tunes that gave some hint of balladry like “Take My Heart” or “Cherish” but even the love song “Joanna” never allowed pulse rates to get lower than about a hundred. The sound was such a monolith it was not easy to find the many guitar and horn solos but in those moments when they sliced through the bass and percussion it was obvious that the men were accomplished at those instruments. Still, this music is not about sitting and pondering life’s mysteries, it’s about getting up and letting the rest of the folks see you dance.
The crowd was often compelled to sing along with their dancing and one of the highlights of the show was a young woman who was invited up on stage in a rather scintillating bit of audience participation, doing one full, very sexy minute of the huckle-buck or some such thing. The show finished with a torrent of funky Kool and the Gang hit sounds including the obligatory “Ladies Night” that really was enjoyable from where I sat, craning my neck to take in all the feminine finery up front. “Get Down On It” was pumping up the energy to what looked like a finale but after a wild drum solo interlude the gang returned for the “Celebration” that made sure no one went home with dry clothes.