Kool & the Gang keeps the funk alive

LOS ANGELES-There was a “celebration” at the Microsoft Theatre on Sunday night as the “Keeping The Funk Alive Tour” spaceship landed, bringing with it the old-school funk. On board was headliner and Grammy Award-winning Kool & the Gang with original, founding band members Ronald and Robert “Kool” Bell in tow, Prince’s disciple Morris Day and the Time, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Bootsy Collins of Parliament-Funkadelic fame with his Rubber Band.

Bootsy and company took the stage first and did a good job warming-up the audience.

In 1976, he and his Rubber Band formed as a separate unit of George Clinton’s P-Funk collective.  The group recorded five albums together, the first of three of which are often considered to be among the quintessential P-Funk recordings.

Their album, Bootsy? Player of the Year, reached the top of the R&B album chart and spawned the #1 single “Bootzilla,”  which the audience was treated to on Sunday night.

Bootsy played his “space bass” on most of Funkadelic and all of Parliament’s albums through the early ’80’s, garnering several songwriting credits as well.  His current signature instrument is a custom-built star-shaped bass guitar.

Two other bright spots of their performance at The Microsoft was when they played “Flashlight,” one of the anthems from the P-Funk days and then Bootsy, during the final song, departed the stage to mix it up with the members of the audience. He danced and let his fans take selfies with him and looked like a pogo-stick, bouncing up and down.

Next up was the swaggering and peacockish “king of charisma” Morris Day and, as usual, he didn’t disappoint with his singing and stage-antics.  His side-kick and foil, Jerome Benton, had their trademark mirror handy for Day to comb his hair on stage.  The mirror prop was and still is entertaining and humorous.  So is their dancing routines.

Day pulled out all of his big hits from his proverbial hat.  If Prince were looking down from the heavens, he would be pleased that his student is carrying the torch for him.

After delighting the audience with “Jerk Out,” “The Bird,” (Day invited audience members up on stage to flap their wings) and “Ice Cream Castles,” he chose as his encore song, the classic “Jungle Love,” which rocketed the theatre to the next dimension.

Then things got really “cool” as Kool & the Gang made their appearance to close out the show.  Not only is this band Grammy Award-winners, they also earned seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits, 31 gold and platinum albums, and was given the nod last year to have their star added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In one of their earliest hits, which they sang on Sunday night, “Hollywood Swinging,” a song about trying to make it in the music business finally became a reality for them. For the past 25 years, lead singer Shawn McQuiller, has been doing a good job of carrying the torch for original frontman James “J.T.” Taylor who went solo in 1988.

And the Bell brothers are also still a force on bass and tenor sax, along with two other original members – George Brown on drums and Dennis Thomas on alto sax.  All four have been with the band since 1964.  At that time, the name of the band was the Jazziacs.  The name changed to Kool & the Gang five years later.

They continued the “celebration” by giving their fans the songs they came for – “Ladies Night,” (McQuiller asked all of the ladies to come to the front of the stage) “Get Down on It,” “Jungle Boogie,” among many other great hits.

Everybody got to shake their booty’s all night and left in a good mood at the conclusion of the concert.

PHOTO CREDIT:  credit Sam Erickson/44 Pictures

Steven Lieberman
About Steven Lieberman 28 Articles
Steven LIeberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. Lieberman has covered entertainment and professional sports, Including the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, for the past 14 years. Among his entertainment work, Lieberman covers concerts, theatre and events.