Jody Watley & El DeBarge Still Thrilling Audiences

For me, it’s definitely been a week of grown and sexy music—starting Saturday night, July 17, when Dance/Pop/R&B queen Ms. Jody Watley personally invited me to her showcase at club Giorgio’s at the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. I’ve been hearing about this hot night spot for months, but now I had reason to go. I was thrown off upon entering the club, because access is nestled via the hotel kitchen; but once I got in, I was musically taken back to one of my favorite periods of music: the disco era. It was a full night of the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Rick James, the Jacksons and a cavalcade of classic seventies and early eights dance music.

Shalamar Reloaded: Nate Allen Smith, Jody Watley and Rosero McCoy
Shalamar Reloaded: Nate Allen Smith, Jody Watley and Rosero McCoy

So, seeing Jody, who’s been performing under the banner of Shalamar Reloaded, was certainly apropos. Ms. Watley was flanked by her dancers/co-vocalists Nate Allen Smith and Rosero McCoy. The trio performed a four-song set kicking of three Shalamar classics “Right in the Socket,” “Take That to the Bank,” and the closing number, “A Night to Remember.” I was most impressed, though, by a new ballad she and the guys recently released, titled “Slow Dance.” It’s a song tailor-made for today’s Urban AC station looking to spin new music from a legacy artist with a fresh sound. My time with Ms. Watley wasn’t over, because on Wednesday, July 22, I got chance to watch her and the guys perform at Dream Magic Studios (in Canoga Park, Calif.), where they taped several songs for the Magic Mornings show, which airs to millions of pop culture lovers in the country of Nigeria.

El DeBarge in performance at the National Bar Assoc. Conference
El DeBarge in performance at the National Bar Assoc. Conference

Monday night, July 20, was special too because my good friend attorney Lawrence Hinkle invited me to an event being hosted by the National Bar Association. The organization was in full celebration mode of its new president elect, Rozenia Cummings. The late night party was attended by some 300 people, mostly black lawyers and judges from around the country. Singer El DeBarge was the evening’s entertainment. I’ve always said that El is a supremely gifted singer, and fortunately he has a discography of songs to match. He performed such DeBarge classics as “Time Will Reveal,” “All This Love,” “Rhythm of the Night”; along with a tribute to his late brother Bobby who fronted the group Switch (in medley of “There’ll Never Be,” and “I Call Your Name”). The set was basically an audience participation sing-along…with El on the verses, while the audience sang the choruses.

For those of us who grew up on Shalamar and DeBarge, I’m glad to see the stars of those groups still out there looking and sounding good, stirring up nostalgia, and introducing their historic music to younger audiences.

By David A. Mitchell