Ashford & Simpson, Still 'Solid' at Carter Barron

Monday, June 19, 2006

No one can pay attention to the first song at an Ashford & Simpson show until several minutes have been spent scrutinizing the pair's ice-dancing-inspired get-ups and deciding whether Nickolas Ashford's legendary head of hair is looking more Jheri juicy or no-lye-relaxer bouncy.

The disco hit "Found a Cure" was the casualty at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre on Saturday night as the crowd discussed how well the singers (rather than the song) have held up over time.

But things settled down when Ashford and wife Valerie Simpson belted out "Is It Still Good to Ya?," the ballad of enduring love and diminished sex drive beloved by long-married couples.

Widely considered better composers than performers, Ashford and Simpson spent a good chunk of time highlighting material penned for other artists.

Even without pipes as strong as many of those singers, the duo had fun with "I'm Every Woman," first made famous by Chaka Khan; "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," one of their first contributions to the Motown catalogue, recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell; and "Let's Go Get Stoned," the ode that Ray Charles released in 1966.

Of their own recordings, the stand-out was, of course, "Solid," which is still just that.

It's the indestructible tune that allows the couple to still draw a crowd and, with its alluring electronic drums and pants of "ha-ha-ha-hot," it may be the only thing more engaging than their costumes and coiffure.

-- Sarah Godfrey

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