Review by Justin Burkhardt
The Legends of Motown tour, headlined by the Jacksons and also featuring the Commodores and the Temptations Review, took to the Sands Event Center on Sunday night. The show, which started an hour late (which had an impact on the show which I’ll get to later), got things started with the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards. Edwards was the lead singer of the Temptations after the late great David Ruffin and led the group from its original Motown to a more psychedelic funk sound. His review shouldn’t be confused with the current Temptations group that features Otis Williams, the last surviving member and founder of the original Temptations. Got it? Good.
Edwards was joined on stage by a full Motown-style band and 4 other singers who, in addition to doing some Temps-style choreography, all provided similar vocal ranges of the old Temptations. Edwards and the other singers rotated singing all the Temps biggest hits such as “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” & “I Wish It Would Rain.” The review’s other members were all fantastic in putting their own twists on the stylings of David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams (whose son Paul Jr now sings on the review), and Melvin Franklin. But where the group stood out the most to me is when Edwards sang the hits that made his time as lead singer of the Temps memorable. From “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” to “Ball of Confusion” to “I Can’t Get Next to You,” Edwards, at age 72, can still sing those hits. My favorite was “Cloud Nine,” which Edwards pointed out was the first ever Grammy Award win for the Motown record label.
The Temptations are one of my favorite groups of all-time and something I hold near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen their TV documentary more times than I can count, and David Ruffin’s voice is one of my all-time favorites. A few months before my mom passed away I saw Otis and the Temptations at Symphony Hall, a moment so special to me that for a year or two after I couldn’t even listen to the Temps anymore. Tonight I shared the concert with my father and it was nice seeing Edwards’ group since I hadn’t before. Both groups are worth seeing, since they are both important members of one of the greatest groups of all-time. The crowd also loved Edwards and the Temptations Review, and their high energy, full-of-hits, roughly 50 minute set could have easily been the headlining act.
Following the Temptations Review came the Commodores. The Commodores still feature two important early members, founding member William King, and Walter Orange, who eventually would write/co-write many of their big hits. J.D. Nicholas, former Heatwave singer, joined the group a bit after Lionel Richie departed, but has been with them ever since The Commodores were joined on stage with their 5-piece band they call “The Mean Machine.” Their band shined during their instrumental song “Machine Gun.” The Commodores performed their biggest like “Easy,” “Three Times a Lady,” and “Too Hot Ta Trot.” The standout songs of the night were “Nightshift”, their Grammy Award-winning tribute song to legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, and “Brickhouse”, their funky dance tune that is probably their most universally well known song and had most of the crowd dancing.
All three members of the Commodores also played instruments throughout the night, most notably Walter Orange who was entertaining while playing percussion instruments. While some people probably wish they could see the Commodores again featuring Lionel Ritchie, this lineup and band is still well worth seeing. The Commodores are still a funky good time.
The Jacksons came on last as they were the headliner, but they didn’t take the stage until around 11p.m. because of the delayed start. Now I know maybe some people were there to see the Temptations Review and/or the Commodores, but I saw quite a few people leave before the Jacksons started and it had to have been because of the set-times. I also saw two mini mass exoduses mid-set when the clock got closer to midnight (something that in my mind is inexcusable as a concert-goer or reviewer). A large part of the crowd also seemed a bit less energetic by the time the Jacksons came on, and again I attribute this in part to the time. When the Jacksons (Jermaine, Tito, Marlon, & Jackie) finally took the stage it was a bit of a mixed bagged for me. The brothers still have loads of chemistry together (years and years of practicing as children together will do that) and they can clearly still put on a good show. But I was disappointed in their song selection for the night. Instead of hearing their biggest Jackson 5 hits in their entirety, we got a medley that featured way too short snippets of “Want You Back,” “ABC,”“Love You Save,” “Dancing Machine,” and “Never Can Save Goodbye.” Instead of these hits, we heard full/extended versions of songs like “Enjoy Yourself” and “Shake Your Booty.” I would have rather heard full versions of the hits.
The Jackson brothers did perform their late brother Michael’s hits “Rock With You” and “Wanna Be Startin Something,” which were actually a lot of fun and the crowd really enjoyed it. The brothers also used a few video clips, which included old performances, throughout their set and I thought that was a nice touch. I wasn’t alive to see the Jackson 5 in their prime, and even though I loved Michael Jackson and he was one of my favorite artists of all-time, I also sadly didn’t get to see him in concert while he was alive. This was still a nice consolation though and it was nice seeing them all together even if Michael was only there in spirit. You can also tell the Jacksons still enjoy performing and all four of the brothers are still very talented and entertaining. I just wish they would tweak their set-list or make it longer to include full version of their older hits. The Jacksons also had an equally talented and high energy band backing them up.
This type of concert is perfect for a casino setting like the Sands. I recently in a non-review capacity saw the Under the Sun tour, featuring a bunch of late 90’s/early 2000’s rock bands tour at the Sands and it too was a good fit. The multiple band show really does work well especially at a place like the event center. I just wish that on a Sunday night the timing wouldn’t have been so off as I think it truly did throw the concert off-balance for many people in attendance. The crowd obviously skewed older; but even myself at age 29 was getting awfully tired and had no idea going into it that I was going to be at the concert until past midnight.