Kool and the Gang rolled into the plush Avalon Ballroom at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Canada last Friday with a truckload of hits and a throwback-style soul music show. Reminiscent of the great R&B shows of the 70’s and 80’s, bassist and founding member Robert “Kool” Bell led a group of 11 members through a 90 minute set of one hit after another. Lead singer Shawn McQuiller, hailing from nearby Lackawanna NY, opened the show with “Fresh,” from 1984’s “Emergency” album. The crowd was on their feet early, dancing in the aisles. “Tonight” followed sung by Lavell Evans. The good-time feel music had the crowd dancing again and clapping with the rhythm.
Original member Dennis Thomas belted out a torrid sax solo during “Too Hot” and reminded the crowd the night was going to be a big party. “Joanna,” sung by McQuiller, featured Tromobonist Jermaine Bryson with a energetic solo and hip hop dance routine. Every member of the band was featured at some point during the evening with a solo or spotlight dance number.
It was Dennis Thomas” turn on the James Brown hit “Funky Stuff” and “Jungle Boogie,” showing he still has the chops on saxophone and a throw-down dance number with Bryson.
The original version of “Summer Madness” brought out the talents of keyboardist Curtiss Williams, who also hails from Lackawanna. The mellow tune was sampled heavily by Will Smith in his rap star days with DJ Jazzy Jeff. To hear the original played by this talented group, brought back sweet memories for the older crowd in attendance.
Evans took the lead again on “Cherish,” as he walked the aisles singing to ladies seated nearby. Some hearts were surely aflutter as he held their hands while crooning the slow ballad. A dance medley followed of “Let’s Go Dancing/Ooh La La La” and “Ladies Night” once again getting the crowd up on their feet and dancing in the aisles. The latest single “SEXY” was next, sung by newcomer Walt Anderson in a sweet falsetto. With vocals soaring and the band swaying to the beat, Anderson shows promise as a leader onstage into the future. The up tempo “Get Down On It” closed the show with more dancing and screaming from the crowd.
Shouts of “one more song!” brought on the encore of the classic and quintessential wedding song in “Celebration.” Everyone was on their feet singing along for this song and the band stretched extra solos and repeated the last verse several times as the crowd would not let them go. The professionalism and slickness of the entire group left little doubt this incarnation of Kool and the Gang will be delivering great entertainment for a long, long time to come.
Take my Heart
Let’s Go Dancin (Ooh La La La)
Sexy (Where’d You Get Yours)
Get Down On It
We would like to thank Mallory Antonello from the Fallsview Casino for the credentials to review the show.