*For the second year in a row, Michael Henderson brought his birthday celebration to the Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood, California (July 6 and 7) and once again EURweb.com was in attendance.
Let me start by giving the band major props, because they were off the hook, chain and hinges. There was no opening act, so they played a tad before Michael came on. When I say these men have skills, that is a bit of an understatement. There were several solos during the evening, all of them, top-notch. Kudos and a shout out to the band members: Paul Vargas (keyboard), William Zimmerman (keyboard), Raymond Johnson (drums), Robert “Bullet” Harris (guitar), KT Tyler (bass guitar) and Don Bynum (horns). They did an amazing job.
When Michael came out walking through the crowd and on to the stage, I saw a cane and thought his mobility may be an issue, but I quickly discarded the notion when he put the cane on the floor, never picked it up again and moved just fine as he went to work. He did mention it, however, sharing that the recent earthquake made him head for the fire escape and, well, you can imagine the rest.
The audience went back down memory lane, as we were treated to all of our favorite Michael Henderson songs, several Dramatics ones, especially those written by Michael and a few songs by other artists as well. As an added treat, Michael played the bass, as opposed to it resting on the stand as it did in previous Catalina appearances. Michael, I am glad you played it for us. I enjoyed it. Before he got into his own music, he performed Jr. Walker’s “Shotgun” and Zapp’s “I Wanna Be Your Man.” First out of the Michael Henderson music vault was “Wide Receiver,” which included a change in lyrics to “Sometimes you get your nut; sometimes you don’t.” I think the audience was amused.
Michael’s deep voice was in full tilt on “At the Concert,” which was an audience favorite. He also performed “Can’t We Fall In Love Again,” “In the Nighttime,” “You Are My Starship” and “We Both Need Each Other,” all of which the audience enjoyed, but my personal favorite was the stroll through the audience Michael took as he performed, “Let Me Love You.” OH MY!
The evening included a fair amount of dialog, where Michael talked about the music of today versus the music of yesterday. He paid homage to singers, Willie Ford (Dramatics), Levi Stubbs (Four Tops) and Chuck Barksdale (Dells), all who have left us, as well as Phyllis Hyman, on what would have been her 70th birthday. The audience got a kick out of how he joked about today’s music being almost indiscernible. I could not help but laugh when he said, “Everyone who stole my music is on Unsung and the rest I work with.” I guess that is to be expected when you have had a hand in some of the biggest hits in music history. Speaking of which, we were treated to a few of the songs Michael had a hand in. He performed a medley of the Dramatics hits, “Hey You, Get Off My Mountain,” “What You See Is What You Get,” “In the Rain,’ “Be My Girl” and “Get Up, Get Down.” I also heard a snippet of my favorite Sly Stone song, “If You Want Me to Stay.”
I was curious to see how the female parts of the songs would be handled. Not a problem. Michael’s background singers, Tameron Gennae, Donald Bell and Anise L. White-Goff doubled as lead vocalists and more than held their own. In fact, Compton’s own Tameron Gennae gets major props for doing the damn thing on “Valentine Love.” Her chops are amazing.
Although I attended the Saturday show, I know people who went on Sunday and loved it just as much as I did, so it was not just me and it was not a fluke. Michael Henderson is still the REAL DEAL, decades later. He even hung around after the show to take pictures and did not stop until the last request was completed. Yep, he is very accommodating. I have now seen him four times in the last two years and I think this was the best of the four shows. If you have a chance to take in a Michael Henderson concert, it will be money well spent.
Thanks for the hookup, Michael. See you next time.
Marilyn Smith is a Los Angeles based writer/reviewer. Contact her via [email protected]