A Review: AEG Presents New Year’s Celebration Starring Betty Wright
On Friday, December 28, 2018, AEG presented a Blues concert entitled A New Year’s Celebration Starring Betty Wright which was held at the Historic Boutwell Memorial Auditorium located in Downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The concert was for a more mature audience looking for a down-home good time.
The show slated to start at 8 pm featured local and national Blues musical artist. The arena was brimming with gentleman in fedora hats and ladies styling in high heeled boots, but the atmosphere was relaxed and happy.
The event was hosted by 98.7 Kiss FM DJ Darrell Johnson, who kept the energy going between acts.
The show started with the lively Ms. Portia. Then Birmingham local artist Mose Stovall took the stage looking sharp in a plaid suit. The gentle giant crooned to Johnnie Taylor, Luther Vandross, and took the house down to a cover of Teddy Pendergrass’s You’re My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration.
Next Big Ro Williams took the stage to excite the crowd with a duet featuring Stovall. The two sang a hip number about growing up in Birmingham and their undying love for the city. The crowd couldn’t get enough of the self-proclaimed big boys as they bounced around the stage.
The night seemed to be ruled by the big guys as Bigg Robb appeared on stage after Williams and Stovall. Robb totally commanded the attention of everyone. His two-piece band dazzled in glittering jackets, while Bigg Robb looked like a circus ringmaster in a top hat and an outfit with LED light-up elements. After hyping up the crowd by declaring, “Ain’t no party like a Birmingham party, because a Birmingham party don’t stop,” he took a surprising praise break to Gospel artist Tamela Mann’s hit Take Me To The King.
After that however, Bigg Robb was back to the Blues covering Let’s Straighten it Out by Latimore. During the song he gave a female audience member a hilarious lap dance stripping down to a humongous red onesie.
He ended his set pealing back a layer of clothes once more, to reveal a more practical outfit and leaving on high note to his hit If I Get Drunk Tonight.
Thankfully, the equally lively Pokey Bear took the stage after Bigg Robb which magnified the crowd’s energy even more. Pokey danced and dance and danced some more to his hits, turning everyone in attendance over with laughter and joy. The favorite of his set was his song They Call Me Pokey which everyone sang along to in almost childish glee.
While the audience was still jovial, Calvin Richardson strolled on to the stage like some kind of sexy urban cowboy. The elated screams of the women in the audience was overwhelming. For every bit of comedy Pokey Bear and Bigg Robb brought to the stage, Richardson brought in equal portions of Bluesy romance.
Women all around grew weak to the sound of his lush voice as Richardson sang all the top songs from his catalog. He sang a number of his songs like Falling Out, Treat Her Right, We Gon’ Love Tonite, and the incomparable mid-tempo ballad Hearsay, but he also paid homage to the greats with covers by Prince, Bobby Womack and everyone’s favorite uncle, Charlie Wilson.
Richardson ended his set with a ripped shirt, a wave of free CD’s thrown out into the audience, a sweaty six pack, and woman screaming in sheer delight.
Finally the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived- the myth, the maverick, the marvelous Ms. Betty Wright came to the stage.
Wright wore her hair in a voluminous red afro and looked amazing in a shiny bell-bottom sleeved cardigan- perhaps all in homage to the era she bust into the music scene, the 1970’s.
After wishing the crowd a belated Merry Christmas and warm wishes for the New Year, The Clean Up Woman got to work. Wright was charming, funny, beautiful, and at sixty-five she could still dance and get low with the best of them.
She weaved through her beloved songs in a way that was not only classic, but she modernized each song by adding in hits from today. For example, she effortlessly mixed Beyonce’s Hold Up, The Deele’s Two Occasions, Keith Sweat’s Nobody and Superwoman by Karyn White with her own song After The Pain.
Everyone’s favorite moment was Wright’s rendering of Tonight Is The Night, which sounded exactly like it does on her records.
Most surprisingly, Wright’s shrill whistle note is still in tact and her vocals are truly phenomenal, even after all these years. Wright is even passing on the amazing vocal tradition, as several of her daughters made up her background vocal ensemble. She exited the stage on a wave of cheers and praise from all in attendance.
AEG’s New Year’s Celebration was the kind of fun Birmingham, Alabama needed. Something that was light-hearted, mature, and comical in this dark world filled with so many problems. It was the cheer concert-goers needed this holiday season to get everyone hopeful and excited for a more promising New Year.