By Nick McCabe – Front Row Photo
The lights went down and the curtain went up to reveal a giant KC and The Sunshine Band backdrop silhouetted by the drum set and riser at center stage. The lighting across the back of the stage came to life and a spotlight hit the rotating mirrored ball over the drums reflecting light spears around the room. Simultaneously a recorded musical track thundered out from the monitors and the band members came out one at a time to alternating corners of the stage, each taking a momentary pause with arms crossed under a spotlight, then they moved to their respective positions on the stage. Last up, KC ran onto the stage from the wings to rousing applause, arms spread greeting the audience, and then the band broke into ‘Shake Your Bootie.’
This was an all out, no holds barred Vegas style show complete with choreography, beautiful dancers, lights, smoke and loads of costume changes. KC has the energy of a person half his age and put everything he had into giving a good show. He brought his top notch thirteen piece band made up of young talented musicians and dancers to the largest stage in the country at The Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. The band (a complete list can be found below) consists of background singers, a horn section, a percussionist, bass, drums, guitar, dancers, and two keyboardists in addition to KC who sings, plays keyboards and dances. These guys (and gals) can play! This is a talented, tight and well rehearsed group of musicians led and tutored in the art of performance by a seasoned professional. When I spoke with KC a few days before the show I asked him what we would see, and he described it as a choreographed show. It was choreographed from beginning to end, with high energy dance routines, horns moving in unison, and KC bounding back and forth across the stage as light as could be. They didn’t even use the house sound board or lighting board. As I walked around before they started I notice that they had their one sound and lighting control boards set up in front of the idle house sound board. It was all well planned out.
Now don’t get me wrong. KC’s 'dancing' was light. KC himself is carrying around a few extra pounds these days, but he made fun of himself about his age and his weight. It was refreshing to hear rather than to have him ignore the obvious. He said that if he hadn’t started losing weight he would have had to change the name of the band to KFC and The Sunshine Band. He looked out into the audience at the younger members and told them to look at him saying, “This is what Justin Timberlake will look like in thirty years.” I was genuinely impressed that a man his size could move the way he did. It was a job well done.
KC hit the ground running with his first album ‘Do It Again’ in 1973. Although he was having huge success in Europe he didn’t break out big time in the United States until the next album, ‘KC and The Sunshine Band’ came out in 1975, which garnered him four number one hits. Some of his original songs played from that album and others in Reno this night were ‘Shake Your Bootie’, ‘Boogie Shoes’ (used in Saturday Night Fever), ‘Boogie Man’, ‘Give It Up’, ‘Brick House’, ‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’, and ‘Get Down Tonight’. Cover tunes they played included Sam Cooks ‘Bring It On Home Tonight’ and Ben E. Kings ‘Stand By Me’. As I looked around the room I saw what I would call ‘multiple dance parties’ going on all over the place. Immediately behind me was a young girl of 8 or 9 years dancing up a storm in her parent’s booth. It was a happy room.
I think it’s a little unfortunate for KC that he owned the charts at the peak if the ‘disco’ craze. During those years I was a music major in college and disco was considered the antithesis of music. ‘Disco Sucks’ T-shirts were everywhere. No self respecting musician embraced disco music. I know I didn’t. When I decided to cover this show I was a little hesitant. Shame on me. It was a good time and I can’t think of anything KC or his band could have done to work harder to deliver a better evening of entertainment. Without going into a commentary on the evolution of music in the last 30 years let me just say this. Look at some of the garbage that has been called ‘music’ in recent years that has come and gone, and then give disco a warm embrace.
Band member Names and Instruments:
Harry "KC" Wayne Casey (Lead Singer)
Anika Ellis (Background Singer)
Maria De Crescenzo (Background Singer)
Christopher Cadenhead (Keyboard)
Robert Lee (Keyboard)
Fermin Goytisolo (Percussion)
Steve Lashley (Bass)
Kenetha Morris (Dancer)
Lisa Torres (Dancer)
Noah Bellamy (Trombone)
Jeffery Reeves (Guitar)
Fernando Diez (Saxophone)
Michael Cordone (Trumpet)
John Alan Reid (Trumpet)
Read my interview with KC here.
For a more complete slide show, click here.
…and the beat goes on.
Nick McCabe can be reached at: Nick.firstname.lastname@example.org