by Special Writer Michael P. Coleman
Any fan of 60s pop or R & B music would be crazy not to experience music legends Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. live if given a chance. The married duo, who were founding members of 1960s vocal group The 5th Dimension before venturing off professionally on their own in the 1970s, performed Saturday night at the Uptown Theatre in Napa as they promote their brand new, first ever “Live” CD. Very few of McCoo & Davis’s contemporaries in the music business are still doing what they were born to do, so for me, this was a rare opportunity.
The duo took the stage promptly at 8pm, which suggested a level of professionalism and lack of ego that permeated the entire evening, and started with a passionate version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. That chestnut, along with Percy Sledge’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”, Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me”, Earth, Wind & Fire’s version of The Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life”, and James Ingram & Patti Austin’s “How Do We Keep The Music Playing?” took on a new resonance during the show, considering Marilyn & Billy have been together (professionally and personally) for almost 50 years. While one might have expected them to take on these sentimental nuggets from their era, their aplomb, vocal mastery, and charming chemistry displayed on those classics was surprising.
Even more surprising was McCoo & Davis’s expert handling of other hits by artists not necessarily in their wheelhouse, including Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” and Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You”. Billy’s brilliant reading of the blues classic “Steppin’ In” was another of the night’s shockers, as he showcased an amazing and rarely seen propensity for the blues and left the near-capacity crowd literally begging for more. Not to be outdone, McCoo delivered a stirring version of her own “One Less Bell To Answer”, earning a standing ovation and displaying a gift for delivering a classic torch song that’s largely absent on today’s music scene.
Anyone attending a McCoo & Davis concert could expect to hear their hits, and we did. The 5th Dimension’s “Up, Up & Away”, “Wedding Bell Blues”, “Stoned Soul Picnic”, and “Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In”, as well as their #1 smash “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)”, were all there, leaving the crowd singing, swaying, reminiscing, and dancing in the aisle as the lights went up. If you can catch McCoo & Davis live, do yourself a favor and check them out. They’re a reminder of an era when artists actually sang, and their songs had meaningful lyrics and catchy melodies.
While you’re waiting to catch them in concert, their new “Live” CD will give you a glimpse of what you can expect at their show. Billy (who his wife jokingly called “the consummate businessman” during the show) would want me to tell you that the CD is available at www.mccoodavis.com.
Look for The Hub’s exclusive interview with Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. in the spring 2014 issue of The Hub magazine and on www.sacculturalhub.com
Look for Michael P. Coleman at www.michaelpcoleman.com and on Twitter at @ColemanMichaelP
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