Kool & the Gang: Live @ The Rocks
In: Live Music21 Sep 2011
Over five hundred people packed into the outside pool area of the Rocks hotel to watch Kool and the Gang on Saturday, July 30 and not one of them was disappointed. Preceded by the requisite firework display, followed by Turkish TV star, Mehmet Ali Erbil and a new addition to these open air concerts, singer Ebru Aydin, the band brought their high energy act to the stage about 10.30pm and left at 11.45pm during which, they and the audience went back in musical time.
Kool and the Gang have gone through several musical phases during the course of their recording career. Starting out with a purist jazz sound, then becoming exponents of rhythm and blues and funk. Progressing to a smooth pop-funk ensemble and more recently creating music with a modern, electro-pop sound. They have sold over 70 million albums worldwide.
They have infused young blood with two of the founding fathers which gave the band a polished, yet timeless appeal. Whilst the younger element certainly had the moves, the old timers were able to hold their heads up as they played guitar and saxophone with vocals in seamless transitions.
The band now consists of 12 musicians, with nine on the stage at the Rocks. All are exceptional in their own right but if I had to mention a few it would be Shawn McQuiller lead singer and guitar and Lavel Evans second lead singer who have more energy than KibTek on a good day and moves to rival Michael Jackson. Last, but not least, Broderick Gittens on trumpet. His energy is infection and his smile is as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Young Shawn McQuiller, a definite ladies’ man asked the audience: “Is there a lady in the house who could take my heart because you can have it.” as he broke into the song of the same name. Sadly for him, no volunteer was forthcoming. Other well known songs were Joanna, Emergency, Ladies’ Night and the raunchy Get Down On It.
Before the show I was lucky enough to interview Dennis Thomas, one of the original Gang members. I asked Mr Thomas, if he could explain why some of the group’s older songs like Celebration and Cherish the Love, seemed to be timeless.
He said: “I think it’s because they are love songs, and just the way the songs are constructed, they are easy to listen to. They are pop songs ultimately but they have a lot of heart. If you make good music at the right time, it just lasts and lasts. I feel a lot of our longevity is due to simplicity, the melodies and lyrics are kind of pure, simplistic songs, they say what the song is about, they say what the song means, give it some good music, not complicated, then it’s music for all the people.”
The band has recently played Glastonbury so I asked Mr Thomas his thoughts on this and he said: “Yeah, it was our first time and the reception was great. There was a lot of mud but it was fun. They are probably one of the best audiences in the world because they are very receptive. The sound system is amazing and the energy there is fantastic. It was a lot of fun.”
With all the touring the band does, I then asked, how he felt about being away from his family. He replied: “It works because it’s been that way all my life. I have been doing it so long, I believe that coming and going keeps life fresh..Of all the songs they have made, did he have a favourite?
I wondered if he got fed up with touring, after almost fifty years in the business. He said, with a chuckle: “I am tired of the travelling, that is the worst part. The security and the customs just make it longer but we came via Istanbul and that is a very nice airport.”
Finally, I asked him what he thought of the Rocks Hotel and he said: “The Rocks hotel is magnificent, I like it here. It’s very unique to any of the other places we have been, its set up is unique and it provides a lot of different things to enjoy. The food is fantastic, the service and staff are fantastic. I am just glad to be here. We have a day off tomorrow and we are being shown around but I don’t know where yet but I am looking forward to seeing some of North Cyprus.”
The band’s biggest hit, their joyous 1980 Number One ‘Celebration’, has impressively become one of the most played songs of the last 30 years, remaining to this day the theme-song of countless sports teams, as well as being as close to a universal wedding-reception-standard as you can get in terms of American music.