A Mother’s Day double-header saw evergreen R&B artists, Teena Marie and The Whispers sell out the historic Beacon Theatre on a balmy Sunday in the Big Apple. The Whispers took to the stage in light peach colored outfits complete with emblem/insignias with matching shoes that only they could pull off. Reduced to a three piece due to the short term illness of Nicholas Caldwell (who made a brief appearance), it was left to the diminutive Scott Brothers, Walter and Scotty along with Leavil Degree to bring deliver the goods.
The last time I saw the Whispers was back in the ‘80’s when “Rock Steady” was a hit. Their shows and performances have hardly changed since then. The distinctive silky smooth delivery of the Scott brothers, particularly on ballads such as “Tell Me Your Name”, “Say Yes” and “In The Mood” keep their largely older female following happy. Interspersed with classics such as “And The Beat Goes On” (which opened the show) and the afore-mentioned “Rock Steady” (which closed it), the Whispers delivered a competent, if not compulsive support slot. The absence of Caldwell did slightly diminish the impact of the choreography and I was curious as to why they chose to include the minor hit from the early ‘80’s “In The Raw” and omit, “It’s A Love Thing”.
Lady T, took to the stage in a flowing cream silk suit with silver boots and matching belt, spewing out some comedic Jamaican patois before launching into Rick James’ “Cold Blooded” as way of a tribute to her former Motown funk brother. A Teena Marie audience comes to see her for two main reasons, her songs and her voice and she doesn’t disappoint on either count. What many are curious to find out is if she actually sounds as good live as she does on disk and the answer is an emphatic “yes” if not better. The Marie live experience is a lesson to all wanna be singers. She uses her instrument effortlessly without all the affectations and drama many singers put into each riff and syllable, never over singing, though it’s clear she has the ability to sing most under the table.
Upbeat classics arrived in the form of “Behind The Groove”, “Sucker For Your Love”, “I Need Your Lovin’” and the closer “Square Biz” with her large band delivering the wall of funk (live horns and synth/strings a blasting) impressively, but it was really the ballads that the audience craved and from the moment she launched into “Déjà Vu” (the third song of the evening) a wave of excitement passed through the venue. “Portuguese Love” took the frenzy higher and “Fire & Desire” (again in tribute form to Rick James) sealed the deal.
Other hits of the set were the mid ‘80’s pop/funk of “Lover Girl”, her current single, “Can’t Last A Day” which she performed with her 17 year-old daughter and “Ooh La La La” which she sang in tribute to her song writing mentor Smokey Robinson.
About the Writer
Jeff Lorez has enjoyed a long and varied career in the music business. As a journalist he has written for a slew of publications and web sites including, Blues & Soul, Billboard, Yahoo.com and the Daily Telegraph and as a music publisher he has been involved in recent chart topping hits by Alexis Jordan and Cher Lloyd.