It’s Saturday night, so out of ALL the options of what to do in the DMV, what should you choose? How about hit up the entertainment destination of the area, aka the MGM National Harbor. With world-class shops, restaurants, lounges and casino games, you’ve got a plethora of things to keep you busy. For me, I’d rather go the other route, and take in a great show…in this case, that would be The Isley Brothers concert.
Folks came out dressed to the nine’s for a night of good music, great vibes and memorable times, as the era of 70’s soulful music took over the intimate theater, and created a safe haven where we could all feel as one. Concerts like this are the ones that I LOVE to go to for the fact that the average attendee is a sincere lover of music, and are there to be fully immersed in the experience. I didn’t have to worry about visually weaving through a sea of cell phones from people too caught up in trying to “capture the moment”, instead of living in the moment. The moments rehashed from the music performed last night were moments that were originally created decades ago to help aid people through trying times.
The show got started around 8:30 PM, when the “original Afro Cuban Jazz Rock Blues band” WAR, led by Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan, took the stage. Listening to the songs that they performed, it made me realize that their back catalog is quite extensive, and one that’s heavily been sampled, especially during the 90’s. Being a fusion band, their sound is a hybrid of many different genres, and is best served “live”, which is what we got last night. There was no “Memorex” in sight and that’s what I loved most about it. Of the seven-piece band, each instrumentalist brought their own unique flavor to the stage that helped bring their hits to life.
Out of all of the songs that they played which included “Slippin’ Into Darkness“, “The World Is A Ghetto“, “Why Can’t We Be Friends“, and “Low Rider“, my favorite had to be “Cisco Kid“. On wax, that bass lick that plays throughout the entire track has to be one of the most sickest in all of music history, but hearing it live sent chills through my body. With WAR’s focus on live instrumentation, they were the perfect supporting act for the Isley Brothers.
After an extended intermission, folks made their way back to their seats in preparation for what they were about to receive from the headliners. At 9:50 PM, the venue lights when dark and Mr. Biggs’ voice rang aloud over the speakers. When the lights came back up, there was a collective roar as Ron Isley walked out from stage left looking like the original player that he’s always been, dressed in a red suit with matching hat and a cane. His brother Ernie Isley was standing firmly on the other side with his guitar in hand, holding it down over on stage right. They wasted absolutely NO time in getting the seasoned women in the audience “started” when they broke out in their hit “Between The Sheets“, a hyper sensual cut that was probably responsible for many of the younger folks in the audience even BEING there.
At times, I felt a little out of place, like I wasn’t old enough to be amongst the crowd since it was totally a “grown folks” affair. The women were cat calling from the floor to the stage, and yelling out “go ahead big daddy!”
Audience interaction was a key component throughout as female guests were invited on stage to show us what they were working with during the performance of “It’s Your Thing”, and a lucky young lady had the opportunity for an impromptu duet with Ron Isley, and surprised him with her vocal abilities, while singing a rendition of Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing“. The cover tunes didn’t just stop there, as a few songs from the greats Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly were shown some love.
In all honesty, I had the feeling of being at a family reunion more so than a concert, for the fact that so many of the singles that The Isley brothers have released over the past six decades, have been constant fixtures at family functions for as far back as I can remember. “Voyage To Atlantis“, “Groove With You“, “For The Love Of You“, “Summer Breeze“, “Choosey Lover” and so many more gave me warm thoughts of spending time with my late grandmother. Speaking on the family front, the tour is pretty much a family affair as well. We all are aware that Ron and Ernie are blood brothers, but Ron’s wife and his sister-in-law serve as their background singers. In the middle of the show, Ron handed the floor over to his wife Kandy, who took us all the way to church with a gospel classic “Jesus Loves Me” before having an alter call moment.
After nearly two hours on stage, it seemed like they had barely scratched the surface of their discography, when it was time for the show to be over. A feel good song is always the perfect closing song, and they couldn’t have chosen one better than “Shout“.
What would the music industry be without The Isley Brothers? Barely a merge image of what it is today since their songs are virtually the backbone of any contemporary r&b track that’s been released within the past 30 years. We take for granted how Ron Isley has been the voice of multiple generations, and Ernie Isley is simply one of the greatest, but underrated guitar players of all time. The soulful sounds of The Isley Brothers still ring true 60 years after their initial forming, and we thank them for giving us the gift of still touring, so that we can give them the “roses” that they all deserve, while they are still living.