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Soul Train steams into Hanover Theatre.

Byline: Peter Landsdowne


WORCESTER - More than 1,800 music fans boarded a Soul Train of sorts Friday night at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts for a musical trip back to the 1970s. Promoted as The Heart and Soul Mother's Day '70s Soul Jam, the concert featured a triple bill of The Stylistics, The Chi-Lites, and Harold Melvin's Blue Notes. To quote comedian and master of ceremonies Jimmy Walker (you remember him as JJ in the '70s TV sitcom "Good Times"), the concert was "dy-no-mite!"

With original members Herbie Murrell and Airrion Love joining forces with relative newcomers Van Fields and Harold "Eban" Brown, The Stylistics topped off the concert with a solid sender of a set that featured all four of the singers in matching crimson suits performing some inspired choreography while singing a batch of The Stylistics' greatest hits.

With Brown singing an inspired falsetto lead, The Stylistics went way back to 1970 for their first big hit, "You're A Big Girl Now," before focusing on material written by producer Thom Bell, one of the architects of Philadelphia Soul. What followed was a string of hits produced by Bell and songwriter Linda Creed that ranged from 1971's tender "Stop, Look, Listen (to Your Heart)" to some exquisite vocal harmonies on "Betcha By Golly, Wow!" to "Break Up to Make Up," a crowd favorite.

Originally from Chicago, The Chi-Lites (say SHY-Lites) used their intermediate, pre-intermission position on the triple bill to good advantage as the group's members (Marshall Thompson, Frank Reed, and Robert "Squirrel" Lester) trucked on out to the stage dressed in what looked like black zoot suits and black fedoras with white headbands while singing 1970's "(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People," the group's first hit. The group quickly segued through a half-dozen or so minor Chi-lites hits before Thompson, a Chi-Lite for the past five decades, introduced "When Mama's Around," a soulful new song for Mother's Day.

Harold Melvin's Blue Notes opened the concert with a dynamic set that almost stole the show. Singer Harold Melvin died in 1997 after leading the Blue Notes for close to four decades. The latest incarnation of the quartet, which still bears Melvin's name as a gesture of respect, moved seamlessly through the ballad "If You Don't Know Me By Now," a breakout single for the group in 1972.

The Blue Notes (Anthony Brooks, Rufus Thorne, and John Morris) got in the groove on Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's "The Love I Lost," a Philadelphia Soul classic. The group then backed special guest vocalist Sharon Paige on the 1975 hit "Hope That We Can Be Together Soon." The capper was a beautifully rendered version of John Whitehead and Gene McFadden's "Wake Up Everybody," another hit from 1975 and perhaps the best musical call to social action aside from Marvin Gaye's "Save the Children."


CUTLINE: Harold Melvin's Blue Notes perform Friday night at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 10, 2009
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