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Concert Reviews:
Fans lift the Family Stone "Higher" at Concert of Colors

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013

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DETROIT -- The Family Stone certainly has the goods to get by without Sly.

But on Saturday night, June 6, at Orchestra Hall during the Concert of Colors, the groundbreaking group also got by with more than a little help from its fans and from its formidable repertoire of genre-blending pop-soul-funk songs.

Without a proper pre-show soundcheck, the Family Stone -- sporting three founding members -- was plagued by technical problems during the bulk of its 12-song, 90-minute set, particularly malfunctioning vocal microphones and also a bottom-heavy mix. The seven group members were visibly disturbed by the situation but plowed on anyway, saved by the fact the crowd -- as demographically diverse as any you could expect for any event in the metro area -- sang nearly every lyric that couldn't be heard over the P.A., turning the show into the kind of highly participatory party usually associated with vintage Sly & the Family Stone concerts.

That spirit carried enduring favorites such as "Sing a Simple Song," "Everyday People," "Dance to the Music" (which the group played twice through), "Hot Fun in the Summertime," "You Can Make It If You Try" and "Family Affair," and fortunately Nate Wingfield's subtle guitar licks were audible for the latter. Sly Stone stand-in Alex Davis and singer Skyler Jett made plenty of fuss about original members Jerry Martini (saxophone) Cynthia Robinson (trumpet) and drummer Greg Errico -- all sporting turquoise tops -- who were duly saluted by the fans.

The sound still wasn't up to snuff for "If You Want Me To Stay" and spoiled a smooth segue into "Stand," but things began to sort out during "M'Lady" and improved as the septet vamped into the anthemic "I Want To Take You Higher." Wingfield may have raised a few eyebrows by announcing "the funkiest track that was ever recorded" for an encore, but the group's muscular performance of "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" at least made it a credible claim -- and a redemptive ending for a night that took a long time to achieve lift-off.

The Concert of Colors continues Sunday, July 7, with the 6th Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue, performances by Calypso Rose with Universal Xpression, Ozomatli with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Yemen Blues and more. Admission is free. Visit www.concertofcolors.com for a full schedule.

Web Site: www.concertofcolors.com

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