Charlie Wilson is proof that age is nothing but a number, and R&B is here to stay. At 62, the former Gap Band frontman performed to a packed Nokia Theater on Wednesday and Thursday night as part of the Los Angeles leg of his Forever Charlie Tour with R&B staples Joe and KEM. Evidenced by a crowd of old heads, many in their juke joint best, old school, feel good music was ahead.
Joe started the night off taking the audience down memory lane with chart toppers “All The Things” and “I Wanna Know.” In true crooner fashion, he had women in the room clamoring to touch his fingertips. His set, simple in nature, produced a chill vibe that permeated the night.
When KEM took the stage, the crooning continued as he celebrated the lovers in attendance. Performing his hit “Find Your Way,” he singled out men in the audience, forcing them to declare their love for their mates over the mic. The crowd also came to its feet while he sang “Why Would You Stay” and “Nobody,” the latest single off his 2014 album “Promise to Love.”
“This tour is a testament for R&B, for black music,” he said. “People love this music. People are leaving these shows full. We are giving them a night to remember from beginning to the end.”
Uncle Charlie ended the night with a party. Complete with four backup dancers, at least four outfit changes and a blinding light show, like a down-home cookout, the crowd was jamming the whole way through.
Notable performances included the Snoop Dogg-Pharrell track “Beautiful” on which he’s featured, and from his latest album “Forever Charlie,” “Birthday Dress.”
Mid-set, Wilson went to church, giving his testimony “from rags to riches and riches to rags and rags to rehab,” which he details in his book “I Am Charlie Wilson,” released in June. After performing only at clubs and small theaters, since his Gap Band days, he's glad he's been able to return to larger venues.
“I always wanted to do arenas again, but I never thought I would be doing it this fast and this big,” Wilson said post-show.
But folks still love R&B music, evidenced by his performance with Snoop the same night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
“People want to hear something, hold on, grab on to something, even the youngsters,” who are showing up to his shows often with their parents, Wilson said.
With over 40 years in the industry, Wilson said it’s the perfect mix of himself, Joe and KEM that keeps people showing up.
“Everybody brings something so perfect to the table and they’re going hard like it’s their last night because that’s what I’m teaching them,” he said. “Forget who’s coming behind you. I’m smart enough to smash the place up the rest of the way.”
Others will get a chance to see Uncle Charlie in action when he performs at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Sunday. Both he and KEM will perform at the Essence Festival this summer.
Follow the reporter on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.