Old-School Go-Go at the Hard Rock Cafe

Lady Rhythm, left, and EU, featuring Gregory
Lady Rhythm, left, and EU, featuring Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliott, right, performed in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. (Courtesy Of Cherie Mitchell)
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Vocalist Gregory Elliott, best known as Sugar Bear, of the legendary go-go band EU (Experience Unlimited), started a Sunday night show at the Hard Rock Cafe by acknowledging the January babies in the house. "Happy Birthday to all the Capricorns!" Bear said, in a shout-out that recognized a few members of the audience, but more significantly the birth of Martin Luther King Jr.

EU, along with the all-female band Lady Rhythm, performed its concert in honor of the civil rights hero, with a portion of proceeds going to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, which is raising $100 million for a monument on the Mall.

The members of EU made a $1,000 donation, presented as an oversize check, but their biggest contribution to the cause was their big ol' sound.

A version of the Michael Jackson ballad "Butterflies" seamlessly incorporated bits of Stevie Wonder's "Superwoman" and rapper Mystikal's Cajun-spiced "Bouncin' Back (Bumpin' Me Against the Wall)." A horn section and congas mellowed out rapper Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's."

They got down to the good stuff with late '80s-early '90s material, including "Shake Your Thang," the 1988 Isley Brothers remake recorded with Salt-N-Pepa, and 1989's "Taste of Your Love." With Sugar Bear's yelping over smooth, more traditional vocals, the forceful R&B track stands as a precursor to the ubiquitous MC/singer collaborations of today.

The night ended, naturally, with the evergreen "Da' Butt," because no birthday party is complete without a little backfield in motion.

-- Sarah Godfrey

© 2007 The Washington Post Company