Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brooklyn's MLK concert series

A friend of popculcha sent in this review of the MLK concert series in Brooklyn, Monday, July 27. BK!

“Giving You the Best…”

The Martin Luther King Jr. concert series in Brooklyn’s Wingate Field has taken place every summer for the past 27 years and showcases the biggest names in gospel, soul, R&B, ska and calypso, but as New Yorkers and aficionados across the tri-state area know, these Monday evening concerts are best known for bringing R&B legends and pioneers to this corner of “the BK.” Last night was no exception. Some 12,000 people, many wielding portable chairs and small battery-powered fans, packed the concert field, to see Charlie Wilson of the legendary Gap Band, and Anita Baker, the eight–time Grammy-winning songstress. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Senator Charles Schumer welcomed the crowd (with the latter reminding everyone “I live in Brooklyn, shop in Brooklyn - I breathe Brooklyn! I’m the first senator from Brooklyn in a 140 years!), and then, arms linked with Anita Baker, Mayor Bloomberg came on stage and introduced Charlie Wilson.

The heat and humidity did not slow down or distract from the 56-year old Wilson’s intense performance, as he belted out Gap Band classics (“Early in the Morning” “Outstanding”) and his most recent hits, including “Beautiful” recorded with Pharell, and “There Goes My Lady.” Wilson, who had all but vanished from the music scene since the 1980s, made a dramatic comeback this decade with two solo albums, including Bridging the Gap which produced the hit “Without You” and the more recent “Charlie, Last Name: Wilson.” “Uncle Charlie,” as his friend Snoop Dogg calls him, regaled the crowd: one moment he was doing the “running man” and other lively routines, with his four scantily-clad background dancers (who also doubled as violin players), and then he’d shift into slow jam mode, crooning, writhing, unbuttoning his shirt, drying himself with a towel, in creative renditions of tracks like “Yearning for Your Love” and “Let’s Chill” – a number originally done by the Guy. Midway through the show, Wilson pointed at the sky, and in gratitude for his successful comeback, and his recovery from prostate cancer, gave a stirring, hooping-style tribute to Jesus.

By the time Anita Baker came on the stage, the humidity had lifted, and dusk had settled over the field. As the multi-platinum chanteuse sang her classics (“Sweet Love” “Caught Up in the Rapture”) her voice felt as balmy as the breeze that had now stirred over Brooklyn. She sang “Angel,” in honor of all the children in the audience, some of the youngsters had by now dozed off in their mothers arms. “Mommies, thank you for your bringing your babies. Entire families can come to my shows – aunts, uncles, mothers and kids can come to my concerts. No one will be offended, everyone will be enriched with something lovely.” (Her own teenage son was playing guitar.) Baker concluded the evening with her 1988 single “Giving You the Best,” but cries and cheers brought her back out to perform “Fairy Tale” and another encore – before the elegant songstress bid everyone good night and exited the stage.

It was close to midnight as attendees began filing out of the Wingate field. Donna White, a kindergarden teacher from East New York, looked exhilarated, “I come to these concerts every year, and this show is the greatest. Charlie Wilson is a phenomenal person. I was so moved when he talked about his struggle, his spirituality, where he was and where he is now – that was so inspiring for our youth.” Fati Tanriverde, an exchange student from France, appeared awed, “It’s extraordinary, a free concert of this level of talent – the grande dame of R&B comes to Brooklyn, and I get to see her. What an honor!”

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