“Everybody looks great out there!” exclaimed Midnight Star as they opened the second night of the Cincinnati Music Festival. The sextet, looking sharp in matching hot pink suits, asked the crowd, “Are you ready to get funky?” Paycor Stadium filled with computer-generated sounds that seemed to come from every crevice. A voice demanded, “Freak-a-zoids, robots, please report to the dance floor.” The audience stood up like a wave moving to the beat.
Midnight Star's 1983 hit, “Freak-A-Zoid”, introduced the futuristic sounds of space disco and techno-funk to an R&B pop audience. The unique touch of the song is the use of a vocoder, which is used to create the artificial, synthetic timbre to a singer’s voice. Unfamiliar with a vocoder? Trust me, you’ve heard it in songs such as “Let’s Groove Tonight” by Earth, Wind and Fire, “PYT” by Michael Jackson, and most recently “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk. Founding member and co-writer Vincent Calloway is considered an expert on the vocoder and one of the pioneers of that style.
In between performing greatest hits such as “Midas Touch”’, “Curious”, “Operator and “Electricity,” Midnight Star thanked their fans for their success. “We’ve been able to travel the world, You’ve been behind us, came to the concerts, called the radio stations and told them to play Midnight Star. We want to do a song you helped make number one for us.” segwaying into “Slow Jam.”
Midnight Star’s finale was “No Parking (On the Dance Floor),” the title track from their fourth album and most successful album of the same name.
If you have an older brother or sister, watched MTV, listened to the radio, or grew up in the in 1990s it was impossible not to have heard a Jodeci song. The background music to your teenage years, the bad boys of R&B brought a style and sound that melted hearts and created life-long adoring fan.
When the overture for their 1992 #1 Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Song, “Come and Talk to Me” whispered across the stadium, the crowd slowly erupted in frenzied screams. K-Ci, JoJo, DeVante, and Mr. Dalvin graced the stage with the essence of seasoned entertainers who know what their listeners want and have no problem delivering. The combination of two sets of brothers from North Carolina, Jodeci created a unique sound infused with hip hop soul, New Jack Swing, and R&B.
Performing a medley of hits including “Forever My Lady,” “Love You For Life,” “Gotta Love” and “Freak’n You” it was no surprise Jodeci moved the audience to the beat. Ending their set with “Get On Up” Jodeci reminded concertgoers, “When you think of love think of Jodeci.”
As a bright summer day merged into a warm summer evening, the glow of phones started to engulf the stadium in warm, incandescent light. The stage glowed red and Ms. Jill Scott entered the stage and glided towards the microphone. A quintuple threat: singer, songwriter, model, poet, and actress. Stunningly beautiful with a voice that lures like The Pied Piper, with a show stopping presence, Scott opened with “The Real Thing.” “You gotta do right by me, it’s mandatory baby...”
“Tonight I’ll be performing some of the songs from my first album, Who is Jill Scott: Words and Sounds Volume 1 (her 2000 debut album that went platinum). Since I’m on my anniversary tour I had to come to Cincinnati and see what’s poppin. Let me hear you sing!”
Highly interactive with her audience, Scott performed songs such as “Its Love,” “Can’t Wait,” “He Loves Me,” and “Hate on Me.” Also included in her set was a rendition of the national anthem that she wrote when she was 19 years old. It’s an honest and bold rendition that’s meant to educate and unite. Love or hate the remake, it takes courage to stand up in front of thousands and I respect her for that.
Headlining the Friday night festivities was Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1995 Inductee and 11 time Grammy award winning award artist Al Green. No stranger to Cincinnati, Green opened with “The Message of Love.” Passing red roses out to the lovelies line dancing on the floor, Green serenaded the audience with hits such as “Everything's Gonna Be Alright,” “Lets Stay Together,” “Tired of Being Alone,” and “I’m Still in Love with You.” Green ending the evening with a powerful rendition of “Love and Happiness.”
Friday is one of those nights you mark in your memory. Perfect evening summer weather meant to be enjoyed outside. The buzz of a very packed Downtown Cincinnati. Vendors everywhere. Good vibes and happiness in everyone’s step. The euphoric high of reunited friends and families. I’m looking forward to Day 3 of the Cincinnati Music Festival.
*ALL PHOTOS Courtesy of Cincinnati Music Festival*