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From soulful tunes to raunchy rock

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Smiles all around

Ricky Smiley
Robinson Center
July 22

Ricky Smiley cracked up a sold-out audience of 2,600 people with his brand of down-to-earth comedy Saturday night.

Smiley, a member of Omega Psi Phi, was the host at a comedy/step show that was among several events open to the public during the fraternity’s 74th Grand Conclave. Smiley also served as host for the step show, during which groups of Ques from districts from all over the country competed for a championship trophy by showing off their synchronized steps and marches. The seventh district, from Clark/Atlanta University at Atlanta, bested the others, presenting an elaborate, precision-ruled routine that made them look like professional performers.

Between performances, Smiley induced roll-on-the-floor laughter by heckling everyone from audience members to Pulaski County Sheriff’s deputies on duty during the event. He even had a bit of fun with a maintenance man cleaning the stage, helping the man push the mop and making conversation with him.

As with many comedians, no subject was too sacred with Smiley, who jokingly reminisced about his middle-school days dealing with an assistant principal who had one leg shorter than the other. He also heckled an audience member who’d yelled out a cryptic request for Smiley to “tell them about the horses.” “You are one chromosome from being retarded ... ,” Smiley scolded the man. “Get your crazy a** out of here.”

Smiley also recognized the Ques (the Omegas’ nickname) who had pledged the fraternity during the 1940s and ’50s, having them come onstage and thanking them for their fraternity and community service before inviting them to show their “steps.” Beforehand, he called for all the heaviest, as well as the slimmest, Ques to come to the stage and show off their steps; enthusiastic fraternity members were only too happy to oblige.

— Renarda Williams

Motown, Ice Man and Philly Sound live on

Temptations Review
Robinson Center
July 21

The spirits of the original Temptations — David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams — were evident in the performance of the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards last Friday night.

The group headlined a July 21 concert with Jerry Butler and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes as part of Omega Psi Phi fraternity’s 74th Grand Conclave here.

Backed by The Temptations Review Orchestra, Edwards — a former Temptations lead singer — and the Review members — David Sea, Chris Arnold, Mike Patillo and Ali Woodson — electrified the audience with their magnificent vocal sound and dynamic dancing.

Wearing purple beaded suits, Edwards and the group opened with “Standing on the Top,” a song the Tempts did with the late Rick James on their 1982 “Reunion” album. They followed with a medley of original Temptations hits such as “Cloud Nine,” “Can’t Get Next to You,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “Get Ready,” “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” and “Ball of Confusion.” Edwards sang “Don’t Look Any Further,” the title track from his solo album in 1984.

Sea tantalized the audience with his Ruffin-like falsetto on “I Wish It Would Rain.” Patillo was soft and mellow on “Rainy Night in Georgia.” Woodson sang lead on the South Pacific song, “Some Enchanted Evening” after delighting women listeners with “Treat Her Like A Lady,”

They closed out the show with “My Girl” and “Just My Imagination” and “Stay,” dedicating their performance to the late original members (only Otis Williams survives).

White-suited Jerry “The Ice Man” Butler opened the evening with a mellow performance that began with “Moody Woman.” He, too, did a medley of hits, including “Let It Be Me,” “Never Give You Up,” “Western Union Man” and “For Your Precious Love.”

Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes brought back the marvelous Philly Sound with some of the group’s greatest hits, including “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “The Love I Lost,” “I Missed You” and “Bad Luck.” The group’s new lineup — lead singer Donnell “Big Daddy” Gillespie, Rufus Thorne, Anthony Brooks, and John Morris — proved more than capable replacements for Teddy Pendergrass, Lawrence Brown, Bernard Wilson, Lloyd Parks and the late Melvin.

Performance treats included Gillespie’s hot romantic duets “Hope That We Get Together Soon” and “You Know How To Make Me Feel So Good” with group regular Sharon Paige; and the group’s last number, the timeless “Wake Up Everybody.”

— Renarda Williams

Disturbingly good

Clear Channel Metroplex
July 19

There was a giant dancing penis and a naked dancing man, and Ministry hadn’t yet set foot on stage — the Revolting Cocks, who played after opener Pitbull Daycare, managed to entertain and, of course, disturb the audience as they hammered through a theatrical set. The Cocks’s stage appearance was along the lines of “Satanic cowboy,” as if Jack and Ennis from “Brokeback Mountain” had been attracted to the dark arts instead of each other.

Just like the dancing penis, though (which made an appearance during their cover of “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart), the Cocks made their look work through a combination of brashness and musicality. More than a few times they added guitars inspired by composer Ennio Morricone to their percussion-heavy, industrial rock. Their lead singer, by the way, appeared to be an exact replica of Fredo from the “Godfather” films. I know it was you, Revolting Cocks.

Ministry seemed to at least double the Cocks’ volume for the main show, playing an extremely loud and lengthy set, about two hours, featuring two encores. The touring band, in addition to songwriter and vocalist Al Jourgensen (who also founded the Cocks), has a solid pedigree. The Metroplex is more or less a concrete warehouse (it used to be a Sam’s Club), but the band cut through every inch of the space and reproduced the frantically fast songs from “Rio Grande Blood” well.

Ministry focused on the anti-Bush material from their two most recent albums, effectively adding to them with muddied, sinister videos of the president that were projected over the stage. Jourgensen gleefully mimed the president’s soundbites, which have been worked into almost all of the new songs, staring down the audience from beneath his sunglasses and slowly twisting his gloved hands in circles. I did not see Ann Coulter in the crowd; her legs are too skinny to mosh with, anyway.

Classics like “So What” (not a Miles Davis cover), “Thieves” and “Psalm 69” got treatment, with “Thieves” coming across in a particularly brutal way. “Stigmata,” the first song from the monumental 1988 album “The Land of Rape and Honey,” was requested rabidly by the audience between encores, and I got word that it was on the set list, but alas it was not played. Ministry’s flirtation with mainstream culture, the single “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” was also absent. However, at the end of the night there was no feeling of having missed something — Ministry crammed all that we needed down our throats.

— Charles Lyford

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