There seemed to be divine intervention from Marvin Gaye on Friday afternoon during the “Evolution Motown” show at the Savannah Center.
Just as a soul quartet was about to launch into “I Heard Through The Grapevine”, a rumble of thunder could be heard inside the auditorium.
“I think it’s a thunderous endorsement from above,” singer Soloman Jaye said, looking up at the ceiling. “Thank you Marvin.”
And with those words, Jaye ripped into a scrambled version of “Grapevine,” which would have made Mr. Gaye proud.
Motown history is American music history, and this show was dedicated to its powerful history. “It’s going to be a fantastic journey through the evolution of the soul,” Jaye said. The trip included everyone from the Platters to Prince.
It kicked off with a mix of 1960s Motown classics. The hit list included songs from the Four Tops and the Temptations.
Jaye, along with Jam Claxton, Joe Dennis and Jabari Clay – were backed by an eight-piece band that would have done the Funk Brothers proud.
They lit a Motown wick on the Four Tops: “Baby, I need your love;” “I can’t help it” and “(reach out hand) I’ll be there.” Then came the temptations: “Get Ready”, “My Girl” and “I Can’t Get Next To You”.
The history lesson goes back to the 1950s, for “Only You” by the Platters. Finally, the singers took a ride on the O’Jays’ “Love Train,” with a little “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder.
Then came the funk, by “the king of them all, y’all” James Brown.
Jaye took center stage for a white-hot version of “I Feel Good.” He did all of James Brown’s moves, including a few backflips and splits.
Jabari Clay took on more funk with Commodores’ “Brickhouse” and added a softer sound on Barry White’s “My Everything.”
Jam Claxton came up with “Beat It” moves and sounds, as a large screen behind the stage showed a video of Michael Jackson.
In the second half, there were more tributes to Boyz II Men, Earth Wind and Fire, and Prince. The Prince set was breathtaking, with numbers such as “Kiss”, “1999” and an exquisite “Purple Rain”.
All of this was enough to warm the hearts of Baby Boomers in Villages.
“These are the songs we grew up with,” said Pat Thompson, who attended the show with her husband Brian. “For us, this musical history unfolded before our eyes.”
“It was the music of our generation,” added Pete Martinasco, who came with his wife, Maryellen. “You don’t hear music like that anymore, with rhythm and melody. You can’t forget those songs.
Evolution Motown helped keep those songs and memories alive.
Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.