Riding a funk-laden wave of nostalgia, Saturday's JammaLamma Live concert at Nissan Pavilion showcased an accomplished group of old-school entertainers. A shared bill saw the Time, the Gap Band, Kool & the Gang and the Isley Brothers proving to be true soul survivors, even with the occasional misstep.
Once lauded for its unique combination of showmanship and musical talent, the Time--Prince's most successful set of proteges--raced through hits like "777-9311" and "Jungle Love," stressing the superficial, with lead singer Morris Day humorously primping his clothes and hair for the audience and his ever-present sidekick, Jerome. Day managed to sound surprisingly good while leading the band in quirky dances.
The Gap Band yelled out catchy lyrics from its own hit parade on "Early in the Morning" and "Outstanding." It was Kool & the Gang, however, that raised the evening's musical bar. Backed by a solid three-piece horn section (but clearly missing former lead singer James "J.T." Taylor), the group shone on "Cherish" and "Get Down on It." Unfortunately, the funk masterpiece "Jungle Boogie" was ruined as the Gang allowed a rap duo to flow over the largely instrumental selection.
The Isley Brothers ended the concert strongly. Draped in a banana-yellow suit and matching overcoat, Ronald Isley introduced the group with the anti-Establishment ode "Fight the Power," followed by the decidedly less political "Between the Sheets." With a nod to their hip-hop fans, he began the latter by confessing, "I love it when they call me Big Poppa," a line from a song by the Notorious B.I.G. that sampled the mellow track. The Isleys most convincingly outlined their genius as Ronald flawlessly meshed his falsetto to Ernie's guitar wails on the night's best performance, "Voyage to Atlantis."