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‘Disco’ tribute: It was ‘burn, baby, burn!’
Thursday, 01 November 2018 22:13

Fiery show ‘burns that mother down’

By JOHN NORTH This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

HENDERSONVILLE — For one weekend only, the pitch for downtown Hendersonville was “Boogie on down to Funkytown,” circa the late 1970s.

In a giant leap back in time, the tribute show “Disco,” part of the Music on the Rock series, ran Oct. 4-7 at Flat Rock Playhouse’s Hendersonville stage.

About 200 people — filling three-fourths of the seats — attended the Oct. 6 performance. Some wore bell bottoms and/or polyester outfits from the era.

Under a large disco ball attached to the ceiling, revolving and pulsating with light beams, the show began with KC & The Sunshine Band’s 1975 classic “Get Down Tonight” — and ended with Donna Summer’s 1978 smash “Last Dance.”

Audience members were encouraged to dance on the open floor area in front of the group — and many did, with great enthusiasm, throughout much of the show.

After performing “Last Dance,” the four fronting vocalists waved and smiled as they left the stage briefly, teasing the audience, as the band remained.

The crowd responded with a standing ovation and pleaded for an encore.

Within 30 seconds the vocalists returned with  broad smiles and launched into a rousing rendition of Sister Sledge’s 1979 megahit “We Are Family.”

The song triggered a number of audience members on the dance floor to link  arms around one another’s shoulders in an apparent spontaneous show of both celebration and of the spirit and unity of the disco fans for their beloved music.

As the crowd continued to cheer, the band launched into a final encore, KC & The Sunshine Band’s 1975 disco classic “That’s the Way (I Like It).” 

The audience cheered for more music, but the house lights were turned up and the vocalists and band bowed and waved — and left the stage permanently.

Earlier, an FRP promotion touted the show as promising “a lively evening of carefree fun and entertainment.”

Attendees would be treated to disco-era song hits that, the FRP noted, “will have audiences doing ‘The Hustle’ and jumping on that ‘Soul Train’.... 

“‘Disco’ will showcase the music of The Bee Gees, Kool & the Gang, the Village People, KC and the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and more! “Rather than just ‘Stayin’ Alive,’ audiences can expect to catch the ‘Night Fever’ and ‘Get Down On It’ in ‘Celebration’ of this vivacious, infectious, and remarkable musical genre.”

Indeed, “Disco” featured four talented fronting vocalists, including Ebony Blake, LaVance Colley, Phillip Brandon and Ta-Tynisa Wilson. 

Blake was most recently seen at the FRP in “70’s Summer Nights” and “The Music of Lionel Richie & Diana Ross.” Colley previously appeared in “A Motown Christmas” and is a featured singer with Scott Bradlee’s “Postmodern Jukebox.”

The band members, all of whom have played in previous FRP shows, included Matthew Glover, keyboard one and music director; Bill Altman, guitar and music director; Paul Babelay, drums; Andrew Rogelberg, keyboard two; and Daniel Iannucci, bass.

The Hues Corporation’s 1973 classic “Rock the Boat” was a huge favorite in the first set, but other memorable first-set songs included “Get Down Tonight,” “I’m So Excited,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” “Love to Love You,”  “Car Wash,” “Le Freak,” “Shake Your Groove Thing,” “Bad Girls” and “Superfreak.”

Besides “Last Dance,” memorable second-set songs included “Disco Inferno,” “You Should Be Dancing,” “Ring My Bell,” “Knock on Wood,” “Funkytown,” “Hot Stuff,” “September” and “I Will Survive.”

Besides the top-notch vocals and stellar backup musicianship by the band, the show’s highlights included excellent choreography and stage-craft by the vocalists, along with occasional background information they provided on the genre of music and some of the most famous disco singers

Another positive was the projection of pictures of the performers on the walls behind the band during performances of that particular entertainer’s hits.

A disappointment was the sparsity of songs by the Bee Gees. However, given the talents of the vocal quartet in singing more mainstream disco songs, avoiding attempts at renditions of more of the quirky and high-pitched songs of the Bee Gees may have been wise, as they are so difficult to perform.

Another glaring omission was the absence of the O’Jays’ much-beloved 1976 disco classic, “Love Train.”

A particularly funny bit in the show was when one of the vocalists asked the others on stage to name the place that was the “most far out” in which each had performed. 

Three of the singers volunteered St. Petersburg, Russia; Dubai, UAE; and Iceland.

Not to be outdone, one singer blurted out that he had played in ... “Funkytown,” as the group launched into a rousing version of Lipps Inc.’s 1979 disco classic, “Funkytown” triggering energized and amusing antics from the dancing audience members.
 



 


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