Freddie Jackson in Oakland concert review
Until a few nights ago, I’d always thought of 80s crooner Freddie Jackson as kind of a downmarket Luther Vandross. Please don’t tell Fred I said that, but it’s true.
As I reviewed Jackson’s catalog in preparation for one of Saturday night’s shows at Yoshi’s in Oakland, I realized that, perhaps, that assessment of Jackson’s artistry was a little reductive. Jackson, I surmised, was more like the United States’ answer to British superstar Billy Ocean. Tell me that you don’t hear the similarities between Jackson’s “You Are My Lady” and several of the ballads — “There’ll Be Sad Songs” or “The Color Of Love” — that Ocean took to the top of the US Hot 100.
(As I typed that sentence at a local coffee shop, Ocean’s “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” just came on! Jackson would have sung that one, too, if he’d gotten ahold of it!)
While Jackson might not like the comparison to Ocean, either, it’s all good. Because after Saturday night’s show, I came upon a much more flattering description of Freddie Jackson: he moved into Marvin Gaye’s lane after that Motown legend left this earth far too early, in 1984.
Jackson showed up almost a year to the day later with his platinum-selling debut album and the #1 R & B hit “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake)” leading a string of quiet storm joints that included “Have You Ever Loved Somebody,” “Tasty Love,” “I Could Use A Little Love (Right Now),” and “Love Is Just A Touch Away” that left his legions of female fans wanting more.
Ladies may have loved Cool J, but many of them left their panties at the two time Grammy-nominated Jackson’s feet, on stages all over the world. Jackson has toured almost consistently ever since, long after his radio hits dried up.
That takes us to Yoshi’s in Oakland Saturday night. Jackson sang all of the songs fans wanted to hear, and deftly performed tunes yelled from that crowd that weren’t on his planned setlist. Jackson’s expressive, slightly nasal tenor hasn’t gotten any better over the years, but it’s not gotten any worse. He was never Vandross (or Ocean — or Lionel Richie, for that matter), but his voice was always strong and emotive enough to deliver his romantic, sometimes provocative lyrics, and the women in the front rows at Yoshi’s were there for it.
Speaking of that front row, I was there, too. As great as the 68 year old Jackson is looking these days — he dropped some weight decades ago and has kept it off — I can’t unsee the 68 year old Jackson’s hip gyrations. Trust me: I’ve tried. Jackson looked like a slightly more rhythmic, slightly less randy Smokey Robinson.
Teddy Pendergrass he ain’t.
Jackson claims he got his singing start in the church. Gospel legend Shirley Caesar once said that you’re never the same after coming in contact with Jesus.
Pastor Caesar must not have seen Jackson in concert.
Jackson’s thrusting pelvis aside, he’s still a riveting live performer — “Jam Tonight” had the whole crowd out of our seats and dancing — and he could show many of the young ‘uns a thing or two. But reflecting on the manner and frequency of his grinding Saturday night, I don’t need to see the thing that Jackson might want to show.
That said, I wasn’t one of the scores of sisters fanning themselves between Jackson’s songs last Saturday night, like they were at a Pentecostal revival looking for some of Pastor Caesar’s greens, beans, potatoes, and tomatoes!
If you loved Freddie Jackson back in the day, you’ll love him now. Check out his touring schedule, and check out all things Freddie — well, maybe not all things — at FreddieJackson.net.