The parking lots around Minglewood Hall in Midtown were packed Friday (July 5) night for a show that got underway about 9 p.m., two hours after the doors opened. This was a highly-anticipated evening – a hometown performance by The Bar-Kays – and funk fans turned out in droves despite the rain.
Comedian and Memphis funnyman Prescott warmed up the sold-old crowd. Laughs bounced across the room as he spoke of real-life experiences while tying in other funny relatable topics. "Hilarious," said one fan, Denise Parker, who declared that she wouldn't have missed the concert for anything.
Parker grew up listening to the Bar-Kays on the radio but had never seen them in concert. Other concertgoers said jamming with The Bar-Kays was like attending a family reunion. It seemed that Minglewood had transformed into just that, a playground for old friends and neighbors, with dignitaries such as former Judge D'Army Bailey and record executive Al Bell sprinkled throughout the crowd.
The Bar-Kays' play list included No. 1 hit singles, stretching back to the '60s and extending to today. They opened the show with favorites such as "Holy Ghost," "Do It (Let Me See you Shake)" and "Sexomatic."
Fans moved, grooved and jumped up and down. Some stood the entire show. The band's lead singer, Larry Dodson, finally slowed the pace down after asking the crowd if it wanted to take a break. "No! Keep it going," was the response. After jamming for an hour non-stop, The Bar-Kays' served up the ballads "Attitudes," "Anticipation," "Unforgettable Dream" and then their most recent single, "Grown Folks," produced by Phalon "Jazze Phae" Alexander, son of bassist, James Alexander, an original band member.
Finally, break time arrived for Dodson, with Archie Love showcasing his vocals while the drummer, Carlos Sargent, kept the beat going as dancers captivated the crowd with their moves. After changing costume and returning to the stage, Dodson complimented the band and the crowd and introduced violinist Lila Hood, passionately known as the "Blue Violinist," and quickly brought out another Memphian, vocalist Sarah Simmons, who was recently featured on the TV show, "The Voice." Hood and Simmons blended in with their soulful style adding to the flow.
After "Soul Finger," The Bar-Kays shifted to their tribute to Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes. Dodson took time to tell the story of how the band got started. Soon after, they covered "Try a Little Tenderness" and "Theme from Shaft" while video footage of Redding played in the background.
As the show turned toward its close, Dodson flashed fire on the stage and greeted fans with the signature snake that long has been a part of The Bar-Kays' unique funk act. Dodson pointed at his watch, told the packed house that it was time to go and issued a reminder that the party would continue at a meet-and-greet after the show. They ended with the 1984 hit, "Freak Show on the Dance Floor."
With the band waving good-by, Dodson – who had donned a glitzy jacket with the aid of a gentleman on stage – extended an invitation for everyone to join them in the lobby for autographs, pictures and exclusive Bar-Kays memorabilia.
Moments later, I took my turn speaking to Dodson, who called the concert amazing. Really happy about the turnout in his hometown, Dodson said the concert was one of the group's best ever.
Alexander, Love and the other band members were all elated to be embraced by fans. And Dodson said that it was not over.
"We will give fans what they want," he declared, including continuing to travel and make "real" music.
The Bar-Kays have a new single produced by "Jazze Phae" that's set for release in late fall.