In concert: Charlie Wilson and Chuck Brown at Constitution Hall
By Sarah Godfrey
R&B singer Charlie Wilson turned 60 earlier this year. Go-go legend Chuck Brown is 73. But when the Godfather of Go-Go and Uncle Charlie perform together, it’s definitely not your father’s live show.
There are some artists who have been performing for ages and sell tickets based almost entirely on the goodwill of fans who remember their glory days, but Brown and Wilson are not those artists. Both launched careers decades ago and both are as good as they ever were--if not better. At Constitution Hall on Saturday night, Brown and Wilson didn’t attract the curious, merely looking to catch a glimpse of fading musicians, they brought out people looking to party.
(Pandemonium in Constitution Hall, plus more pictures after the jump.)
Of the two Chucks, Brown was up first and, as always, his entrance caused mild pandemonium: stage rushing, dancing in the aisles, and other crowd antics that made for a challenging night for the security staff. The people started going nuts before Brown could even get all the way out on stage, and they continued throughout his hour-long, non-stop set.
The Godfather was joined onstage by his phenomenal band, including keyboardist “Sweet Cherie” Mitchell, his daughter, rapper KK, and also…D.C. Council Chair and mayoral hopeful Vincent Gray (who left the stage once the music was in full swing, but did some hand-clapping off in the wings).
More and more, Brown’s shows are becoming full-on go-go all-star revues. He did his own classics-- It Don't Mean A Thing," “Midnight Sun” “Run Joe”--and music from his from his 2007 studio album “We’re About the Business,” including “Chuck Baby,” but also brought out Sugar Bear from E.U. (who performed “Da Butt”) as well as DJ Kool (of “Let Me Clear My Throat” fame) and regular Brown player and legend in his own right, Little Benny.
While Brown defies what is expected of an artist who has been around for nearly 40 years simply by being consistently great, Wilson actively toys with the notion of what is expected of a singer in his 60s. There was no standing in place, no long periods of sitting down on a stool to recharge and rest his feet. The former lead singer of the Gap Band, jumped, danced, and otherwise operated at an energy level that many musicians half his age couldn’t sustain.
He also showed that lascivious gyrating, and shirt unbuttoning isn’t just for youngsters. Wilson put in serious hip work during a cover of Guy’s “Let’s Chill,” then proceeded to wipe the sweat from his head and chest and throw the towel into the crowd. Instead of stepping away from the rag and letting it drop to the ground, fans clamored for it. They also grabbed for a perspiration-soaked hat when Wilson tossed it. Women young enough to be Wilson’s daughters fought over the crystal studded chapeau, which Wilson noted was from a line of hats he is selling, with proceeds from each sale going to prostate cancer research.
Wilson has made a complete stylistic transformation in recent years, and both his current smooth, adult contemporary R&B style and the funk he created in the 70s and 80s were on display. He performed "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)," "Early in the Morning," and "Outstanding," from his Gap Band years. From the second phase of his career there was “Magic” and the title track from 2005’s “Charlie, Last Name Wilson” and “Musta Heard” from last year’s “Uncle Charlie.”
The singer made mention of his age only once, while thumbing his nose at naysayers who once told him it would be impossible to reinvent himself. “They told me I was crazy, I couldn’t do it, said I was too old, over-the-hill. Now, six hit records and four Grammy nominations later…” He finished up with “There Goes My Baby” his most recent silky chart-topper, and then did a bit of self-promotional smack-talking. “It gets no better than Charlie Wilson!” he said. Agreed.
April 26, 2010; 12:15 PM ET
Categories: In concert | Tags: Charlie Wilson, Chuck Brown
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