by Michael P Coleman
It was a good 10 degrees hotter in Sacramento Monday night than it had been over the weekend. Meteorologists said the uptick was due to the jet stream or a high pressure system or some such nonsense, but I know better.
It was noticeably hotter in Sacramento Monday night because Jody Watley and Shalamar Reloaded took the stage at the California State Fair.
Watley started with a declaration wrapped in one of the original Shalamar’s earliest hits: “I Can Make You Feel Good.” She and her new bandmates Nate Allen Smith and Rosero McCoy more than kept that promise with a first set that included a few other late 70s anthems including “In The Socket,” “Take That To The Bank,” and the group’s first smash, “The Second Time Around.” The latter song really resonated with the near capacity audience, as Watley certainly seemed to be having even more fun onstage than she did back in the day — and she had us singing and dancing right along with her.
Watley paused for a moment to offer a “prayer for healing” for the legendary Chaka Khan, who had to cancel her scheduled performance at the fair as she battles substance addiction. Afterward, Watley and Shalamar Reloaded eased into a subdued, sultry version of the classic “Full Of Fire” before treating the crowd to two original tunes, “Slow Dance” and “O.R.I.G.In.A.L.,” both of which hold up to anything that Watley or any incarnation of Shalamar has ever done.
After another fan favorite, “A Night To Remember,” Watley, 56, dismissed the guys and returned to, as she put it, “do me.” She did me, too…shamelessly strutting onstage in a black catsuit and leather jacket as she bellowed “If you know age is nothing but a number, say yeah!”
“Before there were all of the girls of today, there was me,” the Grammy winner continued. “I’m an original, and I’m still fabulous.” By that point in the show, Stevie Wonder could have seen she was fabulous.
A phenomenal freestyle set followed, which gave Watley a chance to share the spotlight with her amazing band and dancers before launching into a scorching version of “I Want Your Love” and a stunning, pulled back version of her ballad “Everything.” On this cut, Watley earned her standing ovation and proved what I suspected after the night’s first couple of songs: she’s broadened her range and her voice is stronger than it was 30 years ago.
We were then treated to the hit that launched her solo career, “Looking For A New Love,” complete with Watley tossing some of her signature hoop earrings into the audience, followed by energetic takes on “Don’t You Want Me,” “Some Kinda Lover,” “Friends,” and “Real Love.”
Several other incredible acts will roll into Sacramento during the next two weeks of the California State Fair, including Tower of Power and the Pointer Sisters, but I don’t envy them having to follow Jody Watley and Shalamar Reloaded. Here’s hoping the fair brings them back next summer!
Hasta la vista, baby!
For information on upcoming concerts at the California State Fair, go to castatefair.org.