At the start of the 1960’s, Motown Records in Detroit brought a new wave of soul music to the world, recording legendary artists and groups such as Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops and the Temptations.
Motown’s popularity paved the way for Philadelphia artists to put a new twist on the sound, and in the 1970’s new soul groups such as Earth, Wind & Fire, the Commodores and Tower of Power brought the funk to the peak of its popularity.
Now, I was not alive for any of this. In fact, my parents were just barely alive for this era of music. I have certainly heard of almost all of these artists, however. Like I said, they are legendary. Their hits are timeless, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s never heard the Temptations’ “My Girl.”
BU’s Celebrity Artist Series brought Souled Out: Motown and More to the stage for homecoming weekend this year. Souled Out consists of four snazzy old performers who sing and dance (with admirable synchronization) in the style of those musical greats from the Motown, soul and funk eras. All of them are noticeably older gentlemen, but the energy with which they rocked Mitrani Hall would convince you otherwise.
Donald “Smoothie” McCall has primary lead singing duties, with a falsetto wail that many younger men only wish they had. The other three singers in the quartet are Dennis Mendes, the baritone Steven Wood and his older brother Michael Wood. Each of these guys took center stage for at least one song. For the rest of the show, they danced nonstop, in unison, all while belting their hearts out.
Backing Souled Out was the impressive Souled Out Orchestra consisting of six highly skilled musicians on the tenor saxophone, trumpet, drums, keyboard, guitar and bass guitar. Halfway through the show, the band took over and introduced themselves individually by playing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
Admittedly, my friend and I were some of the youngest members of the audience, but this show was a lot of fun. The entirety of the set list had people grooving in their seats and singing along. Behind the band, black and white images of the groups whose hits they were playing flashed and served to bring the audience back to the days when Motown was alive and well. While I may not have been around to experience the craze in the 60s and 70s, the show certainly made me feel like I was back in time.
A list of upcoming Celebrity Artist Series performances can be found at https://www.bloomu.edu/CAS. Order your tickets now!
Nicholas Cellucci is in the class of 2016 at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He is studying Mass Communications and is a BUnow staff writer in addition to serving as Executive Producer for BUnow’s Radio section. He also works as a communications assistant in BU’s Office of Marketing and Communications.