Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly
Monday, July 11
Better than: Singing along drunkenly with friends to “Before I Let Go.”
The banner hanging above the stage read “Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series,” but the crowd on display was anything but the vision Dr. King once said he dreamed about in his famous 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech. Dr. King dreamed of “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers,” but last night at Wingate Field, there weren’t many white girls or white boys amidst the sea of black people who came to see Maze featuring Frankie Beverly kick off this year’s edition of the summer concert series.
Here, the “post-racial” concept did not exist, unless we count Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was there to preside over the night’s proceedings. No doubt, love for country was on full display as the crowd joined together to sing the national anthem before the show got started, but there was also a sentiment of racial pride declared too when the assembled immediately broke into James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song often referred to as the Black National Anthem.
But enjoying Maze and Frankie Beverly is not about loving your race so much as it is about loving R&B. The group is that “I didn’t know they sang that song”-type of collective; even black folks are more familiar with songs like “Happy People” and “Golden Time Of Day”—both of which they performed in an excellent show that ran somewhere around 90-minutes—than the band itself. Maze’s true fans are R&B aficionados who come from all backgrounds, the band’s following so cultlike even Frankie couldn’t help but poke fun at the people who applauded and cheered when he asked how many in the crowd were seeing them for the very first time. “We only been around for like 45 years or something,” he said, laughing. “What’s wrong with you all?”
Still, even the rookies knew the drill:
That’s the beauty of a Maze featuring Frankie Beverly show: The crowd knows exactly what they are getting and the band knows exactly what to give. The group hasn’t put out an album since 1993, but it’s evident they don’t need to. Frankie himself can mumble the lyrics to half his catalog in his guttural drawl and the audience is more than happy to sing along with him because his voice has aged so nicely. What was once a reassuring alto reminiscent of your cool uncle who sang at all the family gatherings now has a raspy, smoky grandfather-like sheen, bringing a husky beauty to ballads like “We Are One.”
As the band closed out their set with “Before I Let Go”—a song that has become as synonymous with barbecues as a grill—the young and the old, the mostly black but also white, brown and even yellow, sang along loudly and danced along proudly. They just saw a classy, solid Maze featuring Frankie Beverly concert on a beautiful summer night in Brooklyn—a dream come true for every R&B fan in attendance.
Critical bias: I’m no rookie at a Frankie Beverly and Maze show as I’ve seen them three times before, but never in New York City.
Overheard: “You know, Marvin Gaye discovered them, but I once saw them open up for Marvin, and by the time they were done, the audience was worn out. There was nothing left for Marvin!”—said by an older gentleman as he was walking out of the park.
Random notebook dump: Frankie Beverly looks like he still does push-ups every morning and in the words of Bernie Mac, “will bust your head to the white meat shows.” His beard has also gone white, thus making it an unintentionally perfect accessory.
Laid Back Girl
I Want To Feel I’m Wanted
We Are One
It Makes Me Feel So Bad
Golden Time of Day
The Morning After
Back In Stride Again
While I’m Alone
Joy and Pain
Before I Let Go
I Wanna Thank You