Charlie Wilson At Barclay Center, Wednesday, March 29th, 2017, Reviewed
Charlie Wilson is the former lead singer of the highly influential disco affiliated The Gap Band, Johnny Gill is the former sixth New Edition, and Fantasia won American Idol before jumping off the deep end, and at Barclay Center on Wednesday evening they thumped that bible as hard as their bass players finger picked those bass lines. Johnny seems to insist upon anticipation above and beyond the call of duty, though he has enough hits to make his opening set a fast moving thriller, highlighted by a walkabout in the expensive seats with women begging to be taken to bed. Fantasia said she wouldn’t stop chattering and wouldn’t stop praising Jesus before she got on her knees and cried. And Charlie Wilson took us too the beginning, through the Gap Band years, through homelessness, to being blessed.
It was a good, very mainstream r&b, not an ounce of crossover in the evening. The audience was blacker than any hip hop show I’ve been to in thirty years, it was black to the place of exclusionary. And mostly female because Charlie and Johnny are sex symbols, and Fantasia is trying to find some ground between Mary J on one side and Mary Magdalena on the other, she sounds like Billie Holiday if Billie Holiday was a homeless crack addict, and her cover of “Summertime” was so overwrought she seemed to be aiming for every note ever written.
Johnny was better than Fantasia and Charlie was better than both. The guys were both user friendly soul men, with big tough funk bands behind them, dancers galore, and every cliché in the book to get the audience excited. The audience was about as excited as any third empty arena can be, so quite excited but as much as they could scream it wasn’t loud enough. Inspired takes by the headliner, “Party Train,’ “Charlie, Last Name Wilson,” “Oops, Upside Your head”… all these songs should have brought the house down and Charlie was sexy and highly energetic and his band was outstanding, especially the horn section, but the place was too quiet and the energy seemed to implode. This was Charlie’s second arena tour in two years…
Both the opening sets were too long and Charlie didn’t get on till late so by the time he made it on the audience, resolutely middle aged, were a little tired. It was Fantasia’s fault, she is just so bizarre. Johnny and Charlie are godheads true but they aren’t in the realm of Fantasia who came all the way back from a suicide attempt and third degree burns on her a spent good time telling us to hug the person next to us, if we don’t know em. Because they could use a hug today, right?
I guess we could ll use a hug and we could also use concerts that weren’t such huge clichés. Charlie Wilson is a great, he just about invented New Jack. But as much as he gives of himself, he remains tght in his skin, too tight. He has a strong sense off self and a terrific voice, the best songs are first rate and he moves and sings like a man half his age, but like Johnny he gives into cliche and after decades of hearing it by everyone from Smokey Robinson to A$AP Ferg, it is time to think up your own ways to move an audience. I can’t hear you? Yes, you can