Shropshire Star

Sister Sledge, Tavares, George McCrae, Boney M, Odyssey and more: 40 Years Of Disco, Genting Arena, Birmingham - REVIEW

Disco fans were Lost In Music when seven iconic acts from the genre performed in Birmingham.

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Sister Sledge. Pic: Lush Images

Act after act took to the Genting Arena stage, each of them proudly playing a range of hits from the 70s; along to which the dancing crowd below sang and moved.

Thousands of people turned out for the event last night - many of whom were dressed for the occasion in loud, flared jumpsuits; huge afro wigs; platforms and gold sunglasses. And though most of the night’s music was at least 40 years old, the audience was made up of a huge range of ages; each of them belting out every word.

First to the stage fittingly decorated with disco balls and bright lights was The Stylistics’ singer Eban Brown, who joined the Philadelphia icons in 2000. Though his slot was only short but sweet, the 45 year old showed off his ability to sing eye-wateringly high notes on the band’s iconic numbers You Make Me Feel Brand New and Can’t Give You Anything.

The first of these songs was partly dedicated to the late, great Eddie Amoo, of The Real Thing - a band who had been due to play during his slot prior to Eddie’s tragic death last month.

It was of course a bittersweet moment to see him and his group need to be replaced by Eban, but his performance was so good it would have also been great to see him play a longer set.

The man who was, in my opinion, the top male performer of the night came next however: Florida-born icon George McCrae. The 73-year-old star blew fans away; lighting up the stage as he strolled out in a blue suit, beaming from ear to ear with an infectious smile and incredible energy.

Displaying great skill as both a dancer and singer, George kicked off his short set with 1975 hit It’s Been So Long during which he boasted rich, strong vocals, an amazing range and tremendous projection - all of which received huge applause from the crowd.

“Thank you,” grinned George.

“Not bad for an old man, huh?”

Can’t Leave You Alone came next before George treated fans to the song they were all waiting for - his debut single - Rock Your Baby. And my goodness, did it pack some power. It may be nearly 45 years since the song first hit the charts, but George sang the song with every ounce of its original power.

Odyssey followed: fronted by the Steven Collazo, son of the group’s late founding member Lillian Lopez. He was joined by two female singers and the trio gave out great harmonies as they belted out numbers Native New Yorker, Use It Up And Wear It Out, and Inside Out.

All three of the group projected a great energy - especially on their final number, Going Back To My Roots, which also featured a fabulous solo from the night’s session guitarist.

Boney M were up next, with original member Maizie Williams who - dressed in a silver sequinned jumpsuit - looked amazing. She was joined by two other female singers and a male, whose dancing and energy made their set.

The four piece treated fans to a range of their best-known hits including Sunny, Daddy Cool, Rasputin, Brown Girl In The Ring, and Rivers of Babylon.

Rose Royce followed - which sadly did not feature original singer Gwen Dickie. Gwen left the group some years ago, but wishful thinking had led us to hope she may make an appearance.

The female singer who took her place on lead vocals was great, however, with a strong voice and wide range; as shown on hits such as Wishing on a Star, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, and Car Wash.

The tremendous Tavares were next on stage - and though the brothers first began publicly performing as a group back 1959, this was easily one of the night’s top acts.

Dressed in matching black sequinned jackets and black shirts and trousers, the singers danced in unison and produced exquisite harmonies, with strong, powerful solos and a wonderfully contagious energy.

Hits came thick and fast during their excellent set, including It Only Takes A Minute, Whodunit, Don’t Take Away The Music, More Than A Woman, and Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel.

“Birmingham we love you - we love you all,” beamed one of the band. And it was clear the whooping sea of dancing fans felt the same.

Ending the night on a high were Sister Sledge, starring founding members and of course siblings Kim and Debbie - both of whom each looked and sounded phenomenal.

Kim especially shone with an incredibly wide range, lovely tone and superbly strong vocals.

And though Joni is no longer with the act, having tragically died back in March last year, her memory was carried on through not only her sisters, but also her son Thaddeus who provided backing vocals.

All American Girls, Lost In Music, and Good Times by Chic all featured, as well as He’s The Greatest Dancer - for which they invited a member of the audience to dance alongside them on stage.

The evening’s show was brought to an end with a passionate, high-energy rendition of We Are Family. They were joined by fellow top acts Tavares and George McCrae for this number too - much to fans’ delight.

A mention must also go out to the evening’s wonderfully talented backing band, without whom the show most certainly would not have been the same.

An excellent evening packed with variety and talent - and one I would without doubt love to see again.