The genre of soul/R&B has gone through many phases in its illustrious history. Over the past couple of decades especially the ‘crooners’ ruled the charts: Luther Vandross, Barry White, Teddy Pendergrass, just to name a few. These were the gentlemen all up and comers were held up to. There was no way a new artist was going to be better or even just as good for that matter, but as long as their songs had a romantic vibe, the artist was cool and suave, they had a fighting chance. The Men of Soul Tour harkens back to those days. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m talking thirty years ago but sometimes it does feel that way. The songs on the charts now (not just the soul charts but all across the musical landscape) are chalk full of forgettable poppy or rap tunes that are about as interesting and thought provoking as watching grass grow. The same can be said for the artists who sing them. For me, the definition of a musical legend or legacy is an artist that embodies familiarity, unbelievable showmanship (or woman ship) and genuinely has the music to back it up, someone who can stand the test of time. You may not like a particular artist (ex. Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Marvin Gaye – like I stated across the musical board) but I guarantee you know at least a handful of their songs despite yourself. And in some cases these legends are just as popular now as they were in their best days. Twenty, Thirty, in some cases forty years in the music business does speak volumes even if the record sales have slipped. If you can still tour and fill a venue or stadium; that my friends are the embodiment of a musical legend.
Peabo Bryson, Howard Hewett, Jeffrey Osborne, and Freddie Jackson (The Men of Soul) are the type of artists I’m talking about. Back in their heyday on the charts they were the coolest of cool. They had the ladies swooning and the guys acting and dressing the part. These vocalists as well as their counterparts (Vandross, White, and Pendergrass) were the true gentlemen of Soul. They had the songs that pulled at the ladies heartstrings and made them melt. Vandross was the king of ‘love making’ music with Barry White running a very close second. Tonight live on stage was no exception. The Men of Soul pulled out all the stops, all the hits, and had the ladies in the audience fantasizing of red roses, burning candles, and all out romance. Yes, there were men in crowd as well. They may or may not have been taking notes during the show. You know, writing down a lyric or two to use later or when they end up in the doghouse. Hey, we’ve all been there once or twice. Everyone this evening was dressed to the nines and out to have a wonderful time. The Men Of Soul made that happen in more ways than one: four actually.
All four performers have a varying style and stage presence. But the things they have in common are a universal sex appeal and smooth delivery. Howard Hewitt began the show singing most of his set from the front row of the audience. There’s nothing like getting to know your audience up close and personal. This was definitely the way to go. He interacted with the crowd, shared smiles, held hands and made a personal connection.
Freddie Jackson was next to take center stage. “You Are My Lady,” was definitely the highlight of his set. He had the audience on their feet by the time he closed with a Jamaican version of “Rock Me.” Peabo Bryson definitely stood out as the performer of the evening among the men. His voice clear, rich and dynamic. Who said you can’t get better with age? His renditions of his hits “Whenever Your In My Arms Again,” and “Tonight I Celebrate My Love,” had the ladies in the audience seeing the moon and stars. Romance was in the air during Peabo’s set and he played it with complete mastery and charm.
My favorite of the four was Jeffrey Osborne. Maybe because during the 1980’s working in the record store his albums were played the most. The L.T.D. fans in the audience were delighted as he played all their 70’s favorites. “On The Wings Of Love,” and his heartbreaking rendition of “Where Did We Go Wrong,” was stunning. His vocals were deep and rich. He definitely still possesses that special magic he had back in the good old days. The finale consisted of all four men taking center stage for the classic “You Should Be Mine ( Woo Woo Song.)” A Classic ending to a classic soulful evening.
The Men of Soul brought back R&B music in its finest form tonight. They may not be at the top of charts in this era but they certainly can take me back for a nostalgic ride anytime. I’m sure the 5000 people in attendance at the Hard Rock Live would agree with me and hop on board.