KC and the Sunshine Band keep it comin'
by Seth Rogovoy
(PITTSFIELD, Mass., July 12, 2004) – KC and the Sunshine Band’s music was never the sort to go wild over. Although the group had a handful of number-one hits in the mid- to late-‘70s, it was catchy, disposable dance music, not the stuff of brand loyalty that would make one enough of a fan to follow the group’s career or collect all its albums or even necessarily want to see them in concert. Hearing hits like “Keep It Comin’ Love” and “I’m Your Boogie Man” on the radio or at a party or disco was probably enough for anyone who lived through that era – and undoubtedly too much for some -- and probably more than enough for those who came later. It’s unlikely that anyone ever uttered the sentence, “Sure, the Sunshine Band’s records are good, but you’ve got to see them live.”
Nevertheless, judging from the 90-minute show at Bousquet on Sunday afternoon, the inaugural concert of the new Berkshire Music Glen summer concert series, Harry Wayne “KC” Casey has apparently been able to parlay his huge success of three decades ago into a pretty steady, Las Vegas-style road show. He’s still got the old hits, he’s got a four-man horn section, he’s got a funky rhythm section, he’s got a hip-grinding, butt-thumping quartet of sexy dancers, and the 53-year-old Casey has even got a few smooth moves of his own.
It was never about Casey’s voice or personality, so the fact that neither was particularly compelling didn’t matter all that much. That’s why he has the dancers and the horns – to add “personality” and musical spice, such as it was, to the Vegas-style stage show. Fortunately for Casey, as written his vocal lines were more like chants than melodies to begin with. So the fact that his limited vocal range and pitch control left him more cheerleader or emcee rather than lead singer wasn’t a fatal flaw.
Casey came right out of the gates with “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty,” executing some slick bumps and grinds of his booty along with his dancers. The downside of the wireless microphone he wore was that you could hear all the huffing and puffing this caused him. But then again, that added an element of reality to the somewhat surreal nature of the event as a whole – seeing KC and the Sunshine Band in the summer of 2004 outdoors at a ski area in Pittsfield.
But if you pinched yourself, it was really happening. And Casey reminded you of that with some self-deprecating humor. To the youth in the crowd, he said, “We were your mother’s NSync, and this is what Justin Timberlake is going to look like in thirty-one years.” And when he sang “Rock Your Baby,” he also reminded you of what a good idea it was for him not to record it but to hand it over to a real soul singer like George McCrae, who took it to number one a year before Casey’s first hit, “Get Down Tonight,” which brought down the figurative curtain in a one-two punch with “That’s the Way (I Like It),” which like several other numbers featured some very out of place Hendrixian guitar work.
For a first effort, things worked very smoothly at Bousquet. The concert went on within minutes of the official starting time and seemingly proceeded without a hitch. With the audience at only about one-fifth of the venue’s capacity according to the promoter, Sunday’s show was something of a soft opening. Whatever systems were in place to handle a larger crowd weren’t really challenged, which was probably fine with the hundreds who did show up and enjoyed a relatively mellow, stress-free afternoon in the summer sun.
[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on July 13, 2004. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2004. All rights reserved.]
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