Up and coming R&B singers who merely pace the stage during their sets could learn a lot from veteran The Gap Band-singer-turned-solo artist Charlie Wilson. Wilson, who turned 60-years-old last month, maintained an high energy show Saturday at the packed Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, blazing through 30 years of hits.
Two bugle boys introduced the “Burn Rubber On Me” singer, announcing his intent to “hand you your a** on a platter.”
Wilson did just that. He emerged during the revving “Party Train,” falling in line with the background dancers, keeping in step in his flamboyant black suit, pink shirt and tennis.
From the moment he appeared, he shattered any stereotypes that his age, past health problems or battles with drugs would lessen the impact of his show, and the pace intensified during his 85-minute run.
Wilson’s band, dressed in varying shades of loud colored suits, often joined in the choreography, making for a wild jam session.
Wilson, who has worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly and Kanye West, kept The Gap Band funk ringing with “Early In The Morning” and even a cover of Snoop’s 2003 hit “Beautiful.”
A humble Wilson relished in playing the venue. “They said I would never be able to sell out this building,” he said about the 7,100-seat concert hall. “When God shows up, he shows out.”
Wilson played his new song “My Love Is All I Have” before exiting the stage, prompting an invigorating solo from his saxophonist Nick Stone. He returned in a blue suit, yellow shirt and red bow tie to the tune of The Gap Band’s “Burn Rubber On Me.”
Wilson danced throughout the song and moved into a tribute to the late Roger Troutman, who he described as his “best friend in the music business.” As Wilson played Zapp’s “Doo Wah Diddy,” the stage went dark and each costume illuminated with lights that matched the color of its fabric, resembling something from a Black Eyed Peas show.
Wilson performed the classic Gap Band ballad “Yearning” and sang another Troutman tribute, “I Wanna Be Your Man.”
Wilson revisited his days of being a preacher’s kid in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and testified about his rags to riches story that included cocaine abuse. “Eighteen years clean sober,” he said to the cheering crowd. “Right now I want you to make the kind of noise for the man upstairs,” he said before he started doing the holy dance.
He transitioned into TGP’s “Outstanding,” a song sampled for Da Brat and Notorious B.I.G.’s 1990’s collab “Da B Side.”
He performed a few solo hits, the 2005 R. Kelly penned “Charlie, Last Name Wilson” and 2009’s Grammy nominated “There Goes My Baby.”
Wilson’s dancers wore sequin patriotic red, white and blue tanks and short shorts for the evening closer, Gap Band’s 1982 pop smash “You Dropped A Bomb On Me.”
“This train is moving, so I got to go,” Wilson said at the song’s end, biding the audience farewell as he jumped in line, exiting the stage the same way he entered.