A disc jockey played nonstop funk records before and between the four funk bands at the Capitol Centre last night. Whether records or bands, it was five straight hours of one steady groove, and it took something special to keep it interesting. The first two bands--Rare Essence and Skyy--had nothing special to offer, just the same old beat and tired routines. Con Funk Shun perked up the small crowd a bit with flashy horn lines and some pretty harmony singing. The Bar-Kays made the last hour the evening's freshest by pushing the funk beat with choppy rock guitar and impatient soul horns.
The Bar-Kays, a 10-member Memphis band, has just one survivor (bassist James Alexander) from the incarnation that once backed Otis Redding. Though the dominant flavor now was modern funk, some leftover soul spice lifted the Bar-Kays above the rest of the show. Rather than settling into a groove, they chased the beat with three stuttering horns, two splattering synthesizers and a hard-edged four-man rhythm section. The appealing lead singer, Larry Dodson, also kept the strong melodies moving forward at a good clip.
Con Funk Shun, a veteran California septet, overlaid the big funk beat with four smooth horns, Michael Cooper's low, gruff voice and Felton Pilate's seductively romantic falsetto. Though they occasionally lapsed into monotonous formulas, Con Funk Shun usually had several musical actions going at once in the same seamless arrangement.