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Concert Reviews:
Rock and soul revue closes this year's Concert of Colors

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014

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ETROIT -- It was not entirely clear on Sunday night, July 13, just how long it had been since Wayne Kramer and Melvin Davis had worked together.

The MC5 guitarist and Detroit R&B legend had, of course, formed the band Radiation during the mid-70s. But throughout their reunion performance that closed the 22nd annual Concert of Colors at the Music Box in the Max M. Fisher Music Center, their were references to anywhere from 20 to nearly 40 years. Suffice to say it had been a long time, but the years melted away as the two Motor City music icons fused their rock and R&B roots together for a hot hour-and-a-half performance.

Kramer, brandishing his famous American flag guitar, and the eight-piece Tradition band actually got things started on a free jazz note to the avant strains of "Chasing a Fire Engine" from his latest album "Lexington." Outer musical space got down to earth quickly, though as the 71-year-old Davis joined the troupe for buoyant renditions of his "Chains of Love" and "WCTP (We Came to Party)," leading the Music Box crowd in a spirited call-and-response during the latter.

Davis and Kramer traded warm reminiscences of working together throughout the show and traded vocals on "I Won't Come Crawling Back to You," a song Davis wrote 48 years ago but that only came out last year. Davis, who promised he'd be releasing a new album this year, also led the crowd through a singalong during "I Music Love You," while Kramer tore through "Shark Skin Suit" and his labor-supporting "When Dogs Could Talk" as well as dipping into the MC5's "sensitive side" for "High School." Davis brought his son Bryan Davis of the Detroit group Critical Bill on stage during the funky "Why Can't We Communicate," and an extended take on the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams" took a surprising turn when Davis took over the drum kit, giving the song a bit of soulful swing.

An encore of "Double or Nothin' " reached back to Kramer and Davis' Radiation days but, like the rest of the show, displayed how potent the two music men still are all these years later.

The Kramer-Davis collaboration capped a particularly rich final day for the Concert of Colors, which saw Thornetta Davis front the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in a frigid Orchestra Hall during the afternoon and Seu Kuti and Fela's Egypt 80 enthralled the hall his contemporary permutation of his father Fela Kuti's Afrobeat. Back in the Music Box, meanwhile, the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars made themselves at home, keeping its audience dancing from start to finish of its buoyant 12-song set, highlighted by a generous selection of songs from its latest album, "Libation."

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