Posted by: Chelsea Gerald in: Entertainment Ideas
Abdul “Duke” Fakir, the last surviving founding member of the Four Tops, brought nostalgia to the latter-day Four Tops concert Saturday in Kleinhans Music Hall.
The last time the group was in town, about 10 years ago, three of the original four were there. Now, two more have passed over. It was touching to hear Fakir, alone in the spotlight, describe his dead band-mates: Renaldo “Obie” Benson, with the sunny childlike smile; Levi Stubbs, who with his deep voice was the soul of the group; and Lawrence Payton, the skilled musician who created the Four Tops sound.
His admiration went beyond music: “These men were great fathers, uncles and grandfathers.”
Fakir then sang “My Way,” finessed into “Our Way.” In the song he repeatedly thanked God for the Four Tops’ joy, longevity and success. The last original Top is dignified and his voice is holding up well. That song was very moving.
Which is not to say the night was all about nostalgia.
Led by conductor George Michael Roundtree, the group kept things moving. In the group’s current incarnation, Fakir is joined by Lawrence Roquel Paton Jr., Ronnie McNair and “Spike” Bonhart, formerly of the Spinners (instead of Theo Peoples, who had been announced).
There is no replacing Stubbs, who had been the group’s anchoring voice and the heart of the group. But I am guessing the current four all have good pipes. I say I am guessing because the sound system, throughout the night, was regrettably muddy and harsh. It made it tough to understand lyrics, and alternately swallowed and blasted the singers’ voices. How was this possible? This is Kleinhans.
Charm came through, though, no matter what. The Tops genially dished out the hits: “Baby, I Need Your Loving,” “She Was My Girl” and, toward the end, a kind of fireworks display of a medley including “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love” and “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.”
Payton scored a Kleenex moment when, remembering his dad, he sang the Luther Vandross ballad “Dance With My Father.”
The dancing was not as tight and synchronized as it was the last time the Four Tops were here, but it was enthusiastic. The quartet wore look-alike purple suits. Nice touch.
For the most part, it was easy to forget the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra was there. It blended in that discreetly.
In the concert’s first half, Associate Conductor Matthew Kraemer led the orchestra in a somewhat sleepy tribute to Louis Armstrong— “St. Louis Blues,” “Hello Dolly,” and so on. There followed “Sophisticated Lady,” “Round Midnight” and a Ray Charles medley, culminating in Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind.”