The Commodores, 52nd Street: Hammersmith Odeon, London

Hoarses for courses

AN INTRODUCTORY word first about 52nd Street, a new British funk band on Factory Records, of all things. They’re fresh, tight, and there’ll be more from them in word and sound very soon.

The Commodores, on the other hand, have seen it all before, but even they have a new challenge, that of smoothing over the crack left by Lionel Richie’s departure. The hits still have to be played, of course, and although “Clyde” Orange is now officially lead singer, they share it around and even introduce a new voice, young Kevin Smith.

Smith sounds their best hope for the future, because none of the others are really singers and Orange was painfully hoarse this second London night. It meant on ‘Three Times A Lady’ and ‘Still’ there was much bottling out of tricky notes, and much tension in the audience to see if he’d actually make it through the song.

The banal “paarrty!” exhortations were probably more crass than ever; this particular American trait seems to be handed down from one soul generation to the next without anyone seeing how incredibly trite it is. The Commodores have been doing it as long as most, and Hammersmith seemed to love it.

Most of the Richie songs sounded pretty pale, but new material — ‘Painted Picture’ and ‘Reach High’ — was quite spirited and well received. Perhaps there will be Life After Lionel.

© Paul SextonRecord Mirror, 12 February 1983

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