by Michael P. Coleman
With a bill like this, a disco ball couldn’t have been far from the Mountain Winery Saturday night.
Jody Watley got the party started at 7:30pm with a sampling of some of the best of Shalamar’s catalog. Watley’s reconstituted incarnation of the group — she referred to them as “Shalamar Reloaded” — brought back all of the memories. While filling the shoes of legacy members Howard Hewitt and Jeffrey Daniels is a daunting task, new group members Nate Allen Smith and Rosero McCoy are more than capable of carrying on the group’s legacy.
As for Watley, she was flawless. She hit every note on hits like “Make That Move”, “Dead Giveaway”, and “A Night To Remember”, and she let the capacity crowd know that the songs were in their original keys, “…recorded when I was 19”, she laughed. Another highlight of this first set was a completely reimagined “Full Of Fire” from Shalamar’s superb 1979 Three For Love album. Watley should strongly consider recording this version, which she later told me that fans “really connect with” when the group performs it live.
The diva’s second set was devoted to her solo hits, but not before she donned her iconic silver hoop earrings as she launched into her first solo smash “Looking For A New Love”. Watley has lost none of her vocal range or ability to engage her fans, even gliding out into the audience, a la Diana Ross, during the show. "Don’t You Want Me”, also from Watley’s eponymous solo debut album, along with “Friends”, “Real Love”, and a stunning version of “Everything” followed. After proving she could still bring it vocally, Watley announced “And I can dance in eight inch heels!”
Speaking of dancing, Watley set things up quite well for an incredibly spry KC and his Sunshine Band. The disco ball that was conspicuously absent from Watley’s performance descended just before 9pm, and within minutes the Mountain Winery was practically transformed into Studio 54 circa 1978. The band kicked things off with their hits “Get Down Tonight” and “Boogie Shoes” before KC announced “I’m 64 years old. What the hell happened?” to riotous applause. He followed with more self deprecating humor: “I quit smoking and as you can see, I’ve gained some weight. I’m working with a nutritionist to help me take care of things. If I don’t do something, I’ll have to rename the band KFC & the Sunshine Band!”
The audience couldn’t have cared less about the extra pounds, and they clearly didn’t keep KC & the Sunshine Band from rocking the house with more of their own smashes, including “I’m Your Boogie Man”, “Give It Up”, “That’s The Way I Like It”, and “Get Down Tonight”. He also treated the audience to a couple of selections from his excellent new 60s covers album Feeling You! The 60s, including a fantastic reimagined version of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”.
KC proved that he is one white boy who can play and sing that funky music, effortlessly covering The Commodores’ “Brick House”, The Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body Down To The Ground”, and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me”. He also treated the crowd to the first smash he wrote, George McCrae’s 1974 dance classic “Rock Your Baby”.
As for KC's dancing, I hope I’m half as energetic at 64. Hell, I had trouble keeping up with him from my seat in the audience!
Hopefully, the Mountain Winery will present more of these kinds of shows during upcoming seasons. KC & the Sunshine Band along with Jody Watley & Shalamar Reloaded provided a great night of dancing, singing and reminiscing under the stars.
Photo of Jody Watley by Michael P. Coleman.
Michael P. Coleman is a Sacramento-based freelance writer, and he stands-in for KC as your Boogie Man. Connect with him at , via email at , or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.