*Oh what a night! You have undoubtedly heard about it by now. But you had to actually be there to really understand it fully.
The Hollywood Bowl, along with producer Reginald Hudlin and musician Marcus Miller, reprised the amazing production, ‘Black Movie Soundtracks II,’ on Wednesday, and judging from the sold-out house, the decision to bring it back was a good one.
With a lineup that included the return of 2014 host, comedian Craig Robinson, along with Common, Earth Wind & Fire, Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, Full Force, Lalah Hathaway, Judith Hill, Gladys Knight, Charlie Wilson and Alice Smith — amazing performances notwithstanding, it was the reminders of Black movies — set up on the big screen and made classic by our love for them, the cast, and of course, the music that was really celebrated.
Oh the music.
We listened and watched in awe as we got to revisit Black classics such as ‘Claudine’ — the 1974 film that starred James Earl Jones and Diahann Carroll along a brood of up and coming actors that included Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (‘The Jacksons: An American Dream,’ 1992). All of this while the legendary Gladys Knight stood on stage and sang the Curtis Mayfield-penned song ‘On and On,’ which she had originally performed in the film.
Gladys Knight had the audience on its feet! With backing by the incredible Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (arrangements by Vince Mendoza) and absolutely sick bassist, Marcus Miller, along with legendary guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., the singer teased and pleased us as she went into songs from the film such as ‘Make Yours a Happy Home,’ and one of this writer’s personal favorites, ‘The Makings of You.’
Knight would Tweet the very next day: “I had an amazing night last night!” and placed the photo above on her Instagram.
Lighted Cell phones held high as Lalah Hathaway sang ‘Purple Rain’
One of the most moving moments of the entire evening was the section that honored the late Prince Rogers Nelson. You could literally feel your heart swelling as host Robinson began, “Four months ago the unthinkable happened.” We all knew the intro was going to be about the death of one of music’s most prolific creators…ever.
And then Hathaway sang, ‘Purple Rain,’ as visions of the film appeared onscreen.
It was as if the audience went into a trance. Automatically and seemingly in unison everyone stood and lifted their lighted phones in the air; swaying in memoriam to their fallen idol.
As if things couldn’t get any better, Hathaway and Charlie Wilson — who, if you’ve ever seen him in concert, you realize he has more energy than any man his age or younger — did a rousing rendition of “Take Me With You.”
But that wasn’t the half of it, “Uncle Charlie” had to go on and tear up ‘Baby I’m A Star!’ And from the way he exited that stage, he knew it!
You could practically FEEL Prince grinning as Wilson strutted across the stage in that white suit. Singing and dancing like Prince!
Former Prince backup singer, Chance Howard, moved us with ‘When Doves Cry,’ and Alice Smith lovingly performed, ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend.’
Maurice White and Whitney Houston remembered!
The numerous loss over these past years is nothing short of unfathomable. And the passing of Maurice White became all too real of a reminder when the elements hit the stage. Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson of Earth, Wind & Fire went into a tailspin of music to celebrate the life of their brother; starting with ‘September,’ then their version of The Beatles-penned tune, ‘Got to Get You Into My Life’ and finally, ‘That’s the Way of the World’ — all highlighted by Bailey’s still incredible falsetto, and Verdine White’s naturally-high energy.
‘Glory’ Theme song from ‘Selma’ was the perfect end to a perfect evening.
You could hear a pin drop even in the outdoor atmosphere of the beautiful Hollywood Bowl as rapper/actor Common joined singer Alice Smith to perform the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning song, ‘Glory’ from the 2014 Ava DuVernay directed film, ‘Selma.’ The song was written and performed in the film by Common and John Legend.
Scenes from the prolific movie appeared on the big screen showing David Oyelowo (Martin L. King, Jr.), Oprah Winfrey (civil rights hero Annie Lee Cooper), and a sea of thousands, arms-linked, marching across the bridge steadfast and determined!
Don’t you get chills just recalling that scene? Well, we felt ’em again during this performance!
We are already hearing mumblings that Hudlin is preparing for a Third Installment of this popular series. This is how genius works! Git ‘er done! And we will be right there, front and center, to capture it!