When I heard about the Las Vegas Jazz and R&B festival line-up back in January, I was ecstatic. A fan of all these acts, this line-up had R&B All-Stars written all over it so it was guaranteed I would be making the trek from LA to Vegas to see this. Held in a small park surrounding Clark Ampitheatre, the atmosphere was like one of Madea’s family reunions x 10. Passing vendors selling catfish, jerk chicken, clothing and art, the crowd began setting in around 11 AM for the long day of music. Although nowhere near as hot as Vegas could be (it was around 80), the sun was hot for at least 6 hours, requiring several applications of sunscreen, lots of water bottles and hats worn all around. There were a few shaded areas but those were staked out by the time I arrived. Looked at the program and each artist was scheduled for at least an hour so when I say the day was long, it was long.
Goapele opened the show, with a retro pin-up girl vibe. Gone were the braids and dreads and she was rocking straight hair, changing her look. I wouldn’t have recognized her at first but she looked pretty and appropriately dressed for the hot sun. She did songs off her new album, “Break of Dawn” and some older ones like “Play”, “Closer” “Romantic” “4am” (my fav of hers) and “First Love”. Ending her set with her “My Life”/”Sweet Thing” mix, she started the day off right.
Rahsaan Patterson was next and he kept the show rolling doing songs like “Feels Good”, “Where You Are” and “Stop Breaking My Heart”. Shockingly, for as many R&B shows I’ve been to, I had never seen him live before. For some reason something always came up and clearly I’ve been missing out. His riffs go places other artists wish they could go. Having a meet and greet after his set, he signed CDs and politely took pictures with concertgoers. If you had the Disney channel back in the day, you might recognize Rahsaan as he was “The Kid” on “Kids Incorporated”. Of course, the geek that I am told him I remembered him from that show and he smiled. Rocked my newly signed “Wines and Spirits” CD on the way back to LA.
Melanie Fiona was scheduled next to start around 5 PM but she didn’t hit the stage until 30 minutes later. Wasn’t sure at first if this was a diva move (was hoping it wasn’t) and she graciously apologized for being late, citing a technical issue, for the late start to her set. She brought the fire as usual, rocking 5 inch leather booties and fringe lace dress. She mentioned the heat of the sun but joked about it being ok cause her dress was “see-through”. Beginning with “This Time”, she did songs off both “The “Bridge” and “The MF Life” like “Bones” and “It Kills Me”. My fav moments were when she went to the Caribbean for a reggae version of “Ay Yo”, towel waving , repping her Guyanese roots and when she sang her heart out on “Wrong Side of a Love Song”. After her performance, all was forgiven.
After a long break, at dusk, Morris Day and the Time took the crowd back to the early 80′s with his set of Prince era songs featuring his classics, “The Bird”, “Fishnets” and “Cool”. Telling the crowd “he didn’t sweat, he condensated”, he had the crowd up of hundreds dancing up a storm. The highlight was “Jungle Love”, featuring his trademark dance with Jerome. Ending the night was Eric Benet, who really should have gone third in this lineup if I was putting this show together, leaving Melanie or Morris to end the show. Eric was equally as talented as the rest but his set of love songs like “Spend My Life” and “I Cry” was more appropriate during the day. Favorite moment of his set was “Chocolate Legs” which he dedicated to all the chocolate sistas in the crowd. 10 hours later, I left tanned and “feeling good”.