Monday Smiles – 8/10/2015
Last night, Muri and I took the one hour drive to L.A. Live, the event and restaurant venue right in the middle of Los Angeles, next to the Staples Center, home of the L.A. Lakers and that other team. The O’Jays and Gladys Knight were performing at the Microsoft Theater, one of the largest indoor theaters in the country and home to such events as the Country Music Awards, the Grammies, the BET Awards and, yes, the finals of American Idol. Some years ago, we saw the Empress of Soul in Orange County and she was amazing. When I saw tickets available last week on Goldstar, “we” purchased them as a gift for me for our anniversary, which is tomorrow.
Muri and I have been going to entertainment events in L.A. ever since we moved here in 1971 at venues from the Music Center to the Hollywood Bowl. I am always surprised how many people seem surprised that we drive into the city instead of doing our thing here in Orange County. I am surprised to hear someone say that going to an event that attracts a primarily black audience in L.A. is adventurous. Maybe that’s because I spent my college years … and courted my wife … in the first inter-racial fraternity at the University of Connecticut. Soul and soul music was part of our education, especially in the era of Motown. I was also raised by a Mom who told me there wouldn’t be any races by the time I was an adult because intermarriage would be the norm. Yes, she was wrong but hearing that as a kid changes your attitudes. Now, the phrase a primarily black audience would have been an understatement last night. There is no place else on the planet that I can feel whiter and less cool than at a soul concert surrounded by well-dressed African Americans who move to the music in a way that would look ludicrous on Older Eyes. As far as adventuresome goes, everybody we talked to was friendly, friendlier than some of the stuffed shirt audiences here in the OC. That’s no surprise to me.
And Oh My God, the music. The O’Jays opened the show with a funk-filled performance that had the crowd dancing in their seats, backed by an amazing eight-piece band that threatened to blow the roof off. A little loud for my wife, Muri, but she couldn’t stand it in my car the way I play my radio when I’m alone either.
And Gladys Knight was, again, simply incredible. Her hits with the Pips, Neither One of Us and You’re the Best Thing are two of the my favorite love songs, the former for a broken heart and the latter for an unbroken one. Her lovely version of The Way We Were brought the house down, as did I’ll Be There, a tribute to Micheal Jackson. This isn’t a great video but it captures the spirit of her performance.
I may not look like I have soul sitting there wondering if I look silly clapping but I can tell you, when I hear music like that I am absolutely sure I do.
It’s Monday. I’m humming Midnight Train to Georgia. And I’m smiling.