Take 6 In Concert at Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Take 6
photo: John Shyloski

An otherwise dreary Vancouver Friday night was brightened by the sweet sounds of the renowned a cappella group, Take 6.  The award winning sextet made their Vancouver debut at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre before a mostly full house.  Presented by Chor Leoni as part of their VanMan Male Choral Summit the audience included a number of fellow singers who seemed right at home singing along with Take 6.

With their twelfth studio album, Iconic, coming out this spring, the vocalists call upon their 30+ years of making music to fill the theatre with only the sounds of their voices.  Taking songs from all genres into their repertoire, the audience was treated to 90 minutes of gospel, jazz, pop, R&B and soul.  Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, The Beatles’ Got To Get You Into My Life, Pharrel’s Happy to name just a few of the most familiar tunes.

Founding member Claude Mcknight – elder brother to the famed solo artist Brian Mcknight, along with fellow artists Alvin Chea, Khristian Dentley, Joey Kibble, Mark Kibble, David Thomas are the most award recognized a cappella group in history; multiple GRAMMY, DOVE and Soul Train Music awards, Top Ten lists aplenty and a 2014 induction into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.

Their affable stage presence and camaraderie with each other and the audience made the show a more than enjoyable evening of music and interaction.  If you have a chance to see Take 6 in person, I strongly recommend you take the opportunity.

John Legend – Darkness & Light Tour

John Legend – Rogers Arena – June 1, 2017

June started with an uplifting, soulful evening as John Legend brought his Darkness and Light Tour to Vancouver. The Academy, Grammy, Golden Globe award winner started the show promptly at 8:55pm, rising slowly into the centre of the stage with his piano. As the stage screens shifted to reveal more of the singer, he moved to centre stage to get the audience on their feet as he moved through his set. Joined by his trio of supporting singers, and their perfectly synchronized girl-group choreography, Love Me Now, elevated the energy level early on as the rousing hit prompted an audience sing-a-long and got them moving. Other hits followed; Used to Love You, Like I’m Gonna Lose You, Ordinary People, Who Do We Think We Are were mixed with album tracks, new and old.

A few covers were mixed in to the set too. Telling the story of the birth of his daughter, Luna, John Legend spoke of the special significance of Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly.  Known for his political leanings, Teddy Pendergrass’s Wake Up Everybody fit Legend like a glove, with the lyrics as topical today as in 1975.  A bit of an acapella rendition of the  Beach Boys God Only Knows introduced the final quarter of the nearly 2 hour set.  The tune Slow Dance will forever be memorable for an audience member, Tanya, who was invited onstage to dance with Legend, and stole the set while she was at it. John Legend wrapped up the Darkness and Light Tour stop with the encore tunes, All Of Me and the Oscar winning Glory. The later providing an audience sing-a-long that threatened to block out the singer himself.

John Legend’s Darnkess and Light Tour continues this weekend in Washington State, stopping at Woodenville, WA.  Try to catch the tour if John Legend makes his way to your town.

Chicago + Earth, Wind & Fire – Heart & Soul Tour 3.0

Chicago_EWF_img_9883Earlier this week, the windy city collided with the elements when Chicago + Earth, Wind & Fire played Rogers Arena.

The legendary bands are on their third leg of their co-headlining Heart & Soul Tour, and for the first time bringing their combined talents to Canadian stages.  Between the two bands, they’ve sold more than 200 million albums and amassed countless awards including 20 Grammy nominations.  Over the past 40 years, Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire have performed live before millions of fans and added a few thousand more at Rogers Arena on Monday.

EWF_img_9935The co-headlining show is book-ended by both acts performing together with solo sets of their infinite-seeming catalogues of hits in between.  Earth, Wind & Fire took their turn first with a selection from throughout their 40 years of performing.  Megahits and fan favourites brought soul to the arena as fan got moving to the unmistakable Earth, Wind & Fire sound. With a dozen performers on stage the energy was incredible as the three remaining original members; Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson, lead the charge.  Verdine is all over the stage with his trademark eccentricity, Philip’s massive vocal range was hampered by some audio distortion but he’s still a force at 65 years.  With the loss of founder Maurice White earlier this year, a reminder of the hands of time, the ‘younger’ members of the band, including Bailey’s son Philip Jr show that the band is in good hands for years to come.

Chicago_img_9948After a short intermission, Chicago returned to the stage with their hit-filled set.  The 2016 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductees, haven’t let a little thing like time set them back. Original members; singer / keyboardist Robert Lamm, and Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, and Walter Parazaider the uber-energetic horn section players, are still front and centre while temporary lead singer Jeff Coffey (replacing Jason Scheff during a hiatus) ably fronts most tunes.  Throughout the set, filled with sing-along tracks, the feeling that these performers genuinely still enjoy the live experience. The horn section appears especially animated and energized by the live interaction and still look impressed by each other even after 49 years in the business.

And the audience was still suitably impressed as well, for both the solo sets and when the 21 performers regrouped for a closing set.  After years of friendship, camaraderie, and tours together the acts perfectly blend to make the combined efforts on closing hits; September, Sing A Song, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Shining Star and 25 or 6 to 4, seem like they were always written with these arrangements in mind.

The Heart & Soul 3.0 tour continues through mid-November and from the energy of the bands and audience, this doesn’t feel like it will be the last time we see these friends touring together. If you haven’t caught them before, go see the show!

Picks Of The Week – May 14, 2014

May Long, Victoria Day, May Two-Four…whatever you call it, it’s a long weekend and the unofficial start of Summer is upon us!

Food: Tonight, foodies descend upon Main Street as Vancouver Foodster presents Tasting Plates: Main Street Edition

Cup: The second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship sees Vancouver Whitecaps hoping to erase their one goal deficit when they host Toronto FC at BC Place on Wednesday night.

Skate: Join Olympic & World Champion Skaters; Patrick Chan, Virtue & Moir, Kurt Browning, Joannie Rochette, Jeff Buttle, Duhamel & Radford and many more as Stars On Ice heat up the ice at Rogers Arena on Thursday at 7pm.

Bash: Celebrities Nightclub is the place to celebrate on Thursday, as Liberace hosts its Birthday Bash

Gig: The Rickshaw welcomes Seattle’s The Horde and The Harem with The Ruffled Feathers to the stage on Thursday night.

Cirque: The Big Top is ready and another edition of Cirque du Soleil opens for the season on Friday night: Totem runs until July 16th at Concord Pacific Place.

Outdoor: Head up the Sea to Sky Highway for the inaugural Go Fest! Whistler’s Great Outdoors Festival with 4 days of events, excitement and entertainment throughout the village.

YeeHaw: For 126 years, the Cloverdale Rodeo has been the kick off of summer for families all across Metro Vancouver, the Rodeo and Fair returns for another 4 days of family fun starting on Friday.

Pop: Ride Like The Wind to the River Rock Casino Show Theatre as Christopher Cross comes Sailing to the stage on Friday

Pops: Saxophonists/Vocalist Curtis Stigers joins the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for two shows at the Orpheum Theatre on Friday and Saturday night.

Hurricane Bianca Del Rio Drag: Watch out! A storm is brewing as Hurricane Bianca sees Rupaul’s Drag Race favourite, Bianca del Rio perform a stand-by comedy hour before monroe: takes over Heaven’s Door Saturday

Soul: Deep, sexy, soulful are all on deck as Ensoul returns for another run at Cabana nightclub on Sunday night with DJs Quest, G-Luve and Jared K

Drag: The Mr/Miss Cobalt Drag Competition moves into the semi-finals on Sunday evening at The Cobalt

Late: If you haven’t had enough fun, head to Gorg-o-mish for some late Sunday night – early Monday morning fun at United: Victoria Day with DJ Misha Skye and Vancouver’s own Nick Bertossi.

Alabama Shakes Vancouver

Alabama Shakes – Orpheum Theatre – July 23, 2013

Alabama ShakesMaking a third visit to Vancouver in just over a year, Alabama Shakes are building a solid audience in the city as more and more people hear about the group.  I was encouraged to attend by a friend who raved about their previous shows so they had a lot to live up and they delivered.

This night’s gig was originally set for the Vogue Theatre but due to overwhelming demand was switched to the larger Orpheum Theatre and, judging from the thrilled audience at this sold out show, could have moved to an even larger venue. In spite of the larger sized auditorium, the band’s placement of all their equipment and performance within a small oval centre-stage kept the show feeling intimate.
Alabama Shakes
Lead singer Brittany Howard’s stunning vocals also had a way of filling the room to make sure not one nook or cranny was left untouched.  Still touring in support of their 2012 critically acclaimed debut album Boys & Girls the non-stop touring and performances has really built a solid live show.  The band, Zak Cockrell, Heath Fogg, Steve Johnson and touring member Ben Tanner are terrific musicians and kept the set solid and grounded in their southern rock-soul with a tinge of country. However, there could have been four or forty members behind Brittany, all eyes and ears were on her as she belted song after song and wailed on her own guitar.  The power and soul behind her voice carry the weight of someone far beyond their mid-twenties but Howard holds the audience enraptured with her stage presence and ability. The diversity of the audience shows the broad reach of the band’s sound – an updated blend of sounds from the Southern States. Alabama Shakes - Brittany Howard Roots of country, rockabilly, soul, blues and rock, all intertwine to create a forest of sound that feels familiar and new at the same time.  With just the one album and an EP of material, the set falls just over an hour which left the audience satisfied but clearly ready for more.  If Alabama Shakes continue to make regular stops in Vancouver, their fans won’t have to wait too long before they can be filled with soul again.

If you can’t follow Alabama Shakes on tour as they wrap up North America with festival stops in Calgary, Edmonton and Minneapolis before heading to Europe, you can follow them online, on Twitter @alabama_shakes, on Facebook.com/theAlabamaShakes

Jessie Ware brings Devotion to Vancouver

Jessie Ware – Commodore Ballroom – April 8, 2013

British singer-songwriter Jessie Ware made her Vancouver debut on Monday night.  The multi-award nominated performer was touring in support of her 2012 debut album “Devotion”. While this was her second time performing in Vancouver, having been a backing singer for Jack Penate on a previous tour, this was her first time headlining. A surprisingly devoted crowd hung on every note she eloquently sang throughout the show. Ms Ware’s charming personality won over any casual fans so everyone was on ‘Team Jessie’ by the end of the evening.  The front row of the audience was particularly attentive and excited which Jessie seemed to thoroughly enjoy and helped boost up her energy level even more.  For someone who confessed to having been sick on arrival into Vancouver, she sounded amazing; her voice was perfect and she looked glamourous in her long gown as she worked her way around the stage. While described as a cross between Adele and Sade, there’s really no comparison for her strong soulful, R&B influences pop.  Her tour continues down the West Coast as she heads to Coachella Music Festival.

Follow Jessie on Twitter at @Jessie_Ware, on Facebook, Instagram @jessieware or YouTube