There seemed some divine intervention from Marvin Gaye Friday afternoon during the “Evolution Motown” show in Savannah Center.
Just as a soulful quartet was about to launch into “I Heard Through The Grapevine,” a booming crack of thunder could be heard inside the auditorium.
“I think that is some thunderous approval from up above,” said singer Soloman Jaye gazing at the ceiling. “Thank you Marvin.”
And with those words, Jaye ripped into a nitty-gritty version of “Grapevine,” that would have made Mr. Gaye proud.
The story of Motown is the story of American music, and this show was dedicated to its powerful history. “This is going to be a fantastic voyage through the evolution of soul,” Jaye said. The journey included everyone from the Platters to Prince.
It opened with a medley of Motown classics from the 1960s.The hitlist included songs by the Four Tops and 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 fuse on the Four Tops: “Baby, I Need Your Loving;” “I Can’t Help Myself” and “(Reach Out) I’ll Be There.” Then came the Temptations: “Get Ready,” “My Girl,” and “I Can’t Get Next To You.”
The history lesson went back to the 1950s, for the Platters’ “Only You.” Eventually, 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 the James Brown moves, including a couple of backflips and splits.
Jabari Clay took on more funk with the Commodores’ “Brickhouse” and added a softer sound on Barry White’s “My Everything.”
Jam Claxton offered some “Beat It,” moves and sounds, as a big screen behind the stage showed 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 blistering throughout, with such numbers as “Kiss,” “1999” and an exquisite “Purple Rain.”
All this was enough to warm the hearts of Villages’ Baby Boomers .
“These are the songs we grew up with,” said Pat Thompson, who attended the show with her husband Brian. “For us, this musical history happened right before our eyes.”
“This was the music of our generation,” added Pete Martinasco, who came with his wife, Maryellen. “You just don’t hear music like that anymore, with the beat and melody. You can’t forget those songs.”
Evolution Motown helped keep those songs and those 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.