It was opening night at the OC Fair, and it had been a beautiful day; a Chamber of Commerce day. But the evening turned hotter than the day as The Family Stone and Kool & The Gang brought the heat to the Pacific Amphitheatre.
As the near capacity crowd rolled in, I noticed that at the top of the Amphitheatre, where there is normally empty grass with occasional picnic sit down seating, there were sheep grazing along with their two herding dogs. What an appropriate setting for the opening day of the OC Fair.
The Family Stone is definitely a throwback to the genesis of rock and soul. As they took the stage, I was amazed at the sight and sound the band; they moved in unison while sounding as tight as any band I have ever seen. Being a throwback to old school R&B, The Family Stone paid homage to their founder Sly Stone, and to the band’s original members.
They opened with “Hot Fun in the Summer Time,” and the crowd loved them. As promised, they delivered with their hits which included “I Want to Take You Higher,” “Dance to the Music,” and “Everyday People.” The crowd sang and danced to every word of each song.
As the jealous sun gave way to the moon and angry clouds, the house DJ took over in between sets. With music blaring through the overhead speakers, he got the crowd pumped for Kool & The Gang with songs like “Best of My Love” (The Emotions) and “September” (Earth, Wind & Fire).
The crowd was on their feet, singing and dancing along to the classic tunes. Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” pushed the crowd into an even more festive mood, but then the lights went down, and like the scene out of every larger-than-life concert, the roar of the crowd was almost deafening.
It was evident the near capacity crowd was eager to see these sonic heroes. With a blink of the eye, the band stormed the stage, vocalist extraordinaire Lavell Evans took command of the crowd immediately.
Led by Robert “Kool” Bell, the band formed in the ‘60s, but was formally introduced to us as Kool & The Gang in 1969. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and with that in mind, Kool & The Gang is one of the most sampled bands on the planet.
If you haven’t seen this band live before, they are very unique with an undeniable signature sound. They are another throwback, with choreographed moves like The Temptations, a showman-style quality of Shalamar, the majesty of world-class musicians like Earth, Wind & Fire, vocal harmonies like the Bee Gees, and a horn section just as tight as Boingo’s.
With the expectations being so very high, the band took off immediately on the hit parade with “Fresh,” “Too Hot,” “Let the Music Take Your Mind,” “Open Sesame,” and “Funky Stuff.” The temperature was starting to get cool, but Kool & The Gang lit a match that sparked a crazy flame and heated up the Amphitheatre as they went into “Jungle Boogie,” then segued into “Hollywood Swinging.” The crowd lost their minds with those two songs back-to-back.
The crowd had to come down from that frenzy, but not by much. Up next was “Cherish,” “Let’s Go Dancing,” then their trademark song, “Ladies Night.”
Just when you thought the crowd couldn’t get any louder, somehow they managed to do just that as Kool & The Gang closed out the night with “Get Down On It” and mega hit “Celebration.” Just like that, a great night of music came to an end.
It was a fantastic way to kick off the summer concert series at The Pacific Amphitheatre and OC Fair.