the-commodores_web.jpgPop-Soul legends The Commodores and The O’Jays have mastered the skill of low-impact dancing.

The legendary groups two-stepped across the stage at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Hard Rock Live stage near Hollywood on Sept. 23.

Fans of all ages swooned, applauded and sung along.
The Commodores put on a well-crafted show complete with well-timed audio effects and audience interaction. The O’Jays followed with a slower-paced jam session of classic hits and crowd pleasers.

The three-man team that is the current incarnation of The Commodores opened the show with the hit “I Feel Sanctified.” The song succeeded in setting the tone for the rest of the performance. The audience was at full throat and swagger by the second bar of the first verse.

“Turn around to someone you don’t know and ask them, ‘Can I buy you a drink?’” instructed co-lead vocalist Walter Orange.

The party started from there, and the Commodores kept it going with very few breaks. The longest set change was at most five minutes. The quality of the production was top notch. Properly timed and programmed echoes and reverb adjustments heightened the live sound. Not to mention the fact that these guys could really sing. Orange and James Nicholas might be two of the most underrated vocalists of their generation.

Nicholas sang two ballads normally associated with the group’s most famous ex-member, Lionel Ritchie. His renditions of “Three Times a Lady” and “Easy” were at the very least equal to Ritchie’s original intonations.

Nicholas, Orange and William King are all accomplished musicians, moving easily between instruments. During the show, King played trumpet, rhythm guitar, keyboards, and tambourine – a virtual one-man band.

What must it take for a group that has been performing for close to 30 years to get ready to perform with seemingly boundless energy for an hour and a half? The answer? Low-impact dancing. King, Orange and Nicholas channel all of their energy into their singing voices while keeping the choreography simple, but entertaining.

The Mighty Mighty O’Jays followed the same formula. Even a hobbled Eddie Levert, perched atop a stool, managed to do a remarkable job of dancing without dancing. After The Commodores charged the atmosphere, The O’Jays came out to revel in the buzz and tantalize the female contingent in the audience.

Levert talked about the current economic crisis. “Why they wait until I get money for the money to not be worth [expletive]?” Once it was clear that everyone was hurting from the credit crunch, The O’Jays made it clear that they could make it all better with a playlist of ballads, funk and soul classics.

Levert hurt his knee during 18 holes of golf on the Sunday prior to the show, but the injury didn’t affect his ability to deliver a soulful gravelly tenor. Walter Williams’ complimented the gruff Levert with a softer, gentler vocal range that had the group of three married women in front of me wrenching off the sizable symbols of everlasting fidelity burdening the ring fingers of their left hands.

The O’Jays kept it coming as one hit ended another started to chants of “Ooooooo” or “That’s it Eddie, That’s it.” At one point while singing about crying with his lover, Eddie stood up on his bad knee and gave a couple of slow-motion pelvic thrusts while massaging his sizable paunch. The crowd went crazy.

These seasoned performers put on a perfectly timed and produced stage show, exceeding my expectations. There were no delayed pauses, or sound problems. The songs flowed logically and smoothly from one to the other, and the men hit every note, every mark and every low-impact dance move.

As I exited the arena, I felt a little guilty for underestimating The Commodores, and figuring that I would tolerate the O’Jays. After experiencing Commodore Nation and the Mighty Mighty O’Jays, I admit that both of these groups deserve their legendary status.

Photo by Sayre Berman. The Commodores perform at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood.