Joe, Kem & Charlie arrive – and deliver!

Concert review: The “Terrific 3” created an evening of pure pleasure.

Warren Roseborough | 3/23/2015, 2:34 p.m.
Concert review: The “Terrific 3” created an evening of pure pleasure.
Charlie Wilson makes his entrance, performing his signature “Party Train” at the FedExForum in Downtown Memphis on Friday night. (Photo: Warren Roseborough) Photo by Warren Roseborough

by Warren Roseborough

Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Charlie, Kem and Joe had already “arrived” before either of them stepped out on stage at FedExForum on Friday night. Proof was evident in the 9,000-plus pairs of eyes trained on them.

Each R&B icon declared that the Memphis crowd was the best he had seen so far on tour. And while there is no official measurement of such, the Memphis faithful responded to the declarations as if the truth was self-evident.

The Fred Jones-delivered concert kicked off at 7 p.m. on the dot, with Joe – dressed in black leather – opening with one of hits, “I Don’t Want To Be A Player No More.” Working the crowd, he transitioned into “Ride Wit U,” featuring G Unit, from the album “And Then.” Next, he broke into his rendition of Frankie Beverly & Maze’s “Before I Let Go.”

A craftsman, Joe left the stage, descending into the crowd, taking selfies with the ladies. Getting personal, he told the crowd that he has been in the business for 20 years and that he was ever so thankful for the ongoing support.

Kem was sharp in a two-piece, black-and-white print suit accented with a distinct pair of white shoes. He prefers a tight fit, a fact he volunteered. He walked out and issued an invitation: “If you believe in love, say yeah!” Instant chemistry.

Firing right out of the box, he performed “Love Calls,” followed by “Favorite Thing” and “Nobody Like You.” Throughout the set, he mingled with the crowd, at one point handing the mike to male concertgoers and singing to their wives or girl friends. Don’t be mad, he joked, adding that he was trying to help.

It’s often mentioned that Kem’s sound brings to mind Al Jarreau and Kem dropped that the two are talking about doing an album together.

Launching into “Find Your Way (Back In My Life),” Kem gave some of the men a chance to serenade their mates. He closed the set with Rick James’ hit, “Give It To Me Baby.”

I must note that Kem shared his trademark testimony of transformation – from drugs, homelessness and stealing from his mother’s purse to living a God-saved life. God is going to make it right, he said, certain that someone in the audience needed that assurance right then.

Charlie Wilson

Spectacular theatrics and smooth vocals, Charlie Wilson is non-stop show. This one started out with a guy holding a lantern, saying “All Aboard!” The lights were low and then out came Wilson, with a line of beautiful women, singing “Party Train.” The band was jamming, sounding so good. Dressed in black pants and shirt, with a sequined jacket, he jumped into “Burn Rubber” and then changed into a black and silver outfit. When you go to a Charlie Wilson concert, expect a lot of wardrobe changes.

A “Smooth Criminal” rendition had the crowd chanting “Go Charlie Go, Charlie Go Charlie,” as Wilson danced with the energy of a teenager. Wardrobe change and it was glow-in-the-dark time.

Talking about how he missed his friend Roger Troutman of Zapp, Wilson paid tribute with “Doo Wah Ditty.” Directing each man to tell his woman how beautiful she was, he went into “Goodnight Kisses.” Wardrobe change – black-and-white suit and red jumpsuits for the dancers – and he was into “There Goes My Baby.” With the band rolling, Charlie left the stage for a brief moment and changed into a silver suit. Then came snips of Joe’s “I Wanna Know” and Kem’s “Save My Life.”

On June 30, Wilson has a new book coming out and he encouraged the crowd to preorder. Back to work, the jam session continued, with Wilson carving out time to thank everyone for coming out and singling out the first-timers. The evening included a segment with him singing about how God is so amazing, which dovetailed with his account of going from rags to riches and riches to rags as a crack-cocaine addict. Nineteen years clean and sober, his story was inspirational.

With his hit “You Are” topping the charts for 16 weeks, Wilson made a special note to say thanks, closing the A-plus show with “Outstanding.”