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Black Arts and Culture

Does Frankie Still Have It?

When I first saw the lineup for the 50th Hampton Jazz Festival, I immediately knew that I wanted to attend the Friday night and Saturday night shows. I was not so enthusiastic about the Sunday show. Ramsey Lewis, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly and Patti Labelle, didn’t really appeal to my musical taste. I like Frankie but that last time that I saw him, he did not sound good. Moreover, I did not think he would be invited back to the festival. I finally decided to go; however, I made up my mind that I would not stay for the full concert.

I went to Sunday’s concert fully intending to leave near the beginning of Frankie’s set. I wanted to avoid the traffic jams getting out of the coliseum. And I really didn’t think I wanted to hear Maze perform. Ramsey Lewis was great and the crowd really gave him props for his longevity in the industry. Patti was fantastic. At 73 years old she still can hit the highest of high notes. The audience greeted her with thunderous applauses and loud cheers.

When Maze featuring Frankie Beverly hit the stage, the crowd, many of whom were wearing all white, was hyped and ready for their performance. Dressed in his classic white from head to toe, Frankie sang hits such as “We Are One,” ‘Golden Time of Day’ “Running Away,” “Back in Stride” and “Happy Feelings.” His voice, while not as strong as it once was, sounded much better than it had in recent years. As the band’s set progressed, several people in the audience stood and danced to the well-known Maze songs.

As time went on, more and more of the crowd stood, clapped, sang and swayed to Frankie’s singing. The atmosphere in the coliseum was electric, joyous, cohesive, and celebratory. Thousands of people were singing and dancing to the music of a band that they respect and admire. By the time Frankie got to “Joy and Pain’ and “Before I Let You Go’, most of the approximately 10,000 or so festival goers were standing on their feet; some dancing in the aisles, some gathered at the stage, singing and jamming to Frankie’s crooning. It was truly a beautiful site to see. It was obvious to anyone in attendance that this was Frankie’s crowd. They love him and they did not care if his voice was not the same as it was 20 years ago. The music was awesome, he sounded very good and more importantly, the performance made people happy.

Not many people left early and I too, stayed until the end of the concert.. I did not worry about the traffic. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly put a huge smile on my face. I smiled while riding in the traffic jams, during my ride through the tunnel and all the way home. Out of all the artists featured over the 3-day festival, as wonderful as some of their performances were, no one captured the audience in the way that Maze featuring Frankie Beverly did. So I would indeed say that yes, Frankie’s still got it!

By Wanda Camm

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