February 2, 2015 KC and The Sunshine Band shake NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY 1-23-15 w/ The Sugarhill Gang
One of America’s biggest party Rock bands over the past four decades has been Florida’s KC and The Sunshine Band. Formed by Harry Wayne Casey (KC), a record store employee and part-time worker at TK Records, it was thanks to Henry Stone, owner of both Tone Distributors and TK Recording Studios, that gave KC a shot in the music business. KC recalled the early days of TK Records: “It was like a big family and Henry was our Dad.” Stone had recorded Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker and James Brown at the TK Recording Studios and took a liking to the energetic and optimistic Harry Casey. The social and political issues of the 1960s were, in part, what inspired KC to create music that helped people forget about their troubles and negative aspects of everyday life. Releasing their debut album in 1974, titled Do It Good, they would not see major mainstream success until a year later with the release of their self-titled album. Going triple platinum, the album produced three chart topping singles and catapulted KC and The Sunshine Band to stardom. The band went on to dominate the 1970s, ruling the airwaves with a unique blend of Caribbean, Pop, R&B and Latin styles that inspired infectious grooves and the distinctive Sunshine Sound. The band, with leader KC, backing vocalists Marria De Crescenzo and Anika Ellis, bassist Steve Lashley, drummer David Simmons, keyboardist Chris Cadenhead, guitarist Jeffery Reeves, percussionist Fermin Goytisolo, trombonist Noah Bellamy, trumpeter John Reid, saxophonist Fernando Die, along with dancers Kenetha Morris and Jannel Burgess, continue to rock audiences all over. Bringing the funk to Long Island, New York, the band came to NYCB Theatre at Westbury on Friday, January 23rd, midway through their 2014/2015 world tour.
Opening the night was one of Rap’s originators, The Sugarhill Gang. Hailing from the streets of Englewood, New Jersey, The Sugarhill Gang was the first rap group to tour throughout the world and to appear on national TV shows such as American Band Stand, Solid Gold, Soul Train and Wonderama. Performing for over thirty five years,The Sugarhill Gang sadly lost one of the trio’s founders, Big Bank Hank, in 2014 after a long battle with cancer. Continuing on in his memory, The Sugarhill Gang perform live for fans to enjoy their undeniable sound of old school rap and true rhythm and rhyme. Priming the audience, The Sugarhill Gang came out full of energy, treating fans to their rendition of Curtis Blow’s “The Breaks.” Having everyone grooving, they encouraged crowd participation with their most famous hit “Rappers Delight,” before the threesome continued on with Aerosmith & Run DMC’s “Walk This Way.” Joy was contagious throughout the room as these songs resonated with fans on many levels. In fact, most of the Hip Hop sounds of today were inspired by the ground breaking sounds and lyrics of this iconic group. With that said, they went into Puff Daddy’s 1996 hit “It’s All About The Benjamins,” enticing the audience get up and dance. Backtracking ten years to 1986 Beastie Boys hit, “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” the crowd was in for a surprise with a special appearance by Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. Flashback to the days of “White Lines,” Grandmaster Melle and Sugarhill rocked the house, pumping up an already frenetic crowd. Paying homage to the groups that inspired these trail blazers in the world of Rap, the music took a turn back in history with The Trammps “Disco Inferno,” The Village People’s “YMCA,” and Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three’s “The Roof Is On Fire.” Fast forward to current times, the band played Alicia Keys and Jay Z’s “Empire State Of Mind.” The finale featured a tribute to Queen as they blasted out, “We Will Rock You.” Overall, The Sugarhill Gang put on an amazing, high energy show that left everyone breathless.
After a brief intermission, KC and The Sunshine Band lit up the stage with songs like the 1975 hit, “Boogie Shoes.” The crowd hopped to their feet, dancing and singing as nostalgic memories of the past flowed like water through the minds of spectators. Engaging the room, KC shared stories of his youth, even talking about a song written by Barbara Mason, and then segued into “Yes I’m Ready,” before going into The Manhattans’ hit, “Kiss and Say Goodbye.” Continuing the stroll down memory lane, the orchestra and dancers were right in sync, pulling willing fans out of their seats for most of the show as the band rocked out a tribute to Sam Cooke, playing “Bring It on Home To Me.”
Keeping the excitement coming, a medley of “I’m Your Boogie Man,” “Keep It Comin’ Love ,” and George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby” followed as KC sang eloquently, with the band behind him sounding vividly bright. Allowing the fans a brief respite, KC reminisced on the New York area club scene before going into a unique rendition of Ben E. King’s classic, “Stand By Me,” backed with a fast paced beat from the bass, drums, and horns. Keeping that overwhelmingly positive vibe flowing, KC and The Sunshine band upped the ante and kept fans grooving with “That’s The Way (I Like It).” A major favorite for years, this crowd pleasing hit could possibly be one of the biggest dance songs ever, and this Long Island crowd showed their excited appreciation. As the evening wound down, boogieing was at an all time high as the band went into The Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground),” and the Commodores’ 1977 funky hit “Brick House.” Hearts racing, the crowd cheered for more. KC and his crew submitted to their demands and ran back out for one final number, fittingly closing with “Get Down Tonight.”
Often referred to as the founder of the dance revolution, KC and The Sunshine Band still have what it takes to keep a crowd entertained. With a keen sense of humor and fun-loving attitude, KC and his band brought NYCB Theatre at Westbury back in time, and time travel never felt so good. The band will resume touring February 10th in Vail, Colorado, and on March 10th will be releasing a new covers album, paying homage to the classic music of the ’60s. So put on those dancing shoes, let loose, and shake your booty with KC and The Sunshine Band.