Sequins and colorful expensively-tailored suits, lively coordinated choreography, and horns, lots of horns, differentiate the popular music of the 1960’s to 1980’s from the tee-shirted, tattooed vibes of today. A full house of baby-boomers (one performer gave a shout out to everyone who graduated from high school between 1964 and 1984) rocked the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix as it hosted The Masters of Funk Concert on May 31, 2014.
Merriam-Webster defines "funk" as "music that combines elements of rhythm and blues and soul music, and that is characterized by a percussive vocal style, static harmonies, and a strong bass line with heavy downbeats." Simply, funk is soul music that makes you want to dance.
The Masters of Funk Concert showcased groups, like The Barkays, Confunkshun, Dazz Band, Ohio Players, Mary Jane Girls, & Taste of Honey. The audience was on its feet from the first trumpet blast. People clapped, cheered, danced and laughed as these consummate entertainers, who have been performing for decades, played, joked, cajoled and thrilled them with hits like In My House, Fire and Let it Whip.
The Celebrity Theatre opened in 1964. It was a favorite spot to see comedians like George Carlin and Bill Cosby, entertainers like Sammy David Jr. and Carol Channing, or rock acts like Duran Duran and Bruce Springsteen. Many of these past performances are immortalized in museum photos at the theatre.
While US Airways Center continues to book the few big acts like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars or former Celebrity entertainers, like Billy Joel, that venture to Phoenix, the Celebrity Theatre thrives off nostalgia with acts like the upcoming O’Jays, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, the Whispers, and the 1964 Tribute. But The Celebrity also appeals to smaller acts, from cage fighters to Pimpinela to Wanda Sykes, which attract particular, loyal groups of fans.
While there are grumblings about parking or pricy concessions or long lines for the few, dated women’s restrooms, once the shows start, people are enthralled. What makes the 2650-seat theatre most unique is its round, revolving stage. Neither performers nor audience members are used to being no more than 70 feet apart.
The Celebrity Theatre is an important feature of Phoenix history. More importantly, the Celebrity Theatre is caretaker for the 50 years of fond musical memories of Phoenix residents and visitors. It lives up to its motto " A place can have soul."