Los Angeles based FM station Hot 92.3 proudly sponsored the first show in their Hot Summer Nights Series at the Greek Theater on Saturday, May 24th with Cheech and Chong, War and the support of the opening act, Family Stone.
It was more than a repeat of last year’s performance, the crowd replete with stoners and long time fans that never failed to show their long lasting support by dancing in the aisles and singing along to every song performed. The Greek Theater celebrated the show with a capacity crowd, bringing fans in from all points of Southern California and on what couldn’t have been a more warm and clear night, the air lit up with clouds of pot smoke and memories of a time when the power of classic radio spoke to the masses through music that touches the soul.
Family Stone opened the show with “Everyday People,” one member shy of a Sly and the Family Stone show, as nobody is quite sure where Sly is these days, but it didn’t deter the performance from being top notch. On stage, three founding members, saxophonist Jerry Martini, drummer Gregg Errico and the first lady of trumpet Cynthia Robinson pulled out all the stops, with the originality that made helped make the band a global sensation. Calling out the classics from the years the band was on the charts, songs that ran the gambit of funk, soul and Motown from 1967 to 1983 are easy to spot among classic pop fanatics, and they were on display with Family Stone. To immense fanfare, the band struck up the familiar classics including “Higher,” “Dance to the Music” and as fans expected, they closed out their set with what might be their most popular effort ever recorded, and a tribute to Sly before departing, “Thank You For letting Me Be Myself Again.”
It was announced that the stage crew needed twenty minutes to re-arrange the stage and fans hit the snack bars, filled their wine glasses and lit their smokes, making their way to their seats in time for the evening sky to dim, the house lights to rise up and for Shelby Chong to take the stage, stunning in a white form fitting dress and high heels. She addressed the audience and foreshadowed what attendees could expect for the evening, and in classic comedic style, she graced the crowd with hilarious stories of her life as the wife of comic legend Tommy Chong while sharing stories from her unique perspective of thirty plus years in the family. She announced that it was Tommy Chong’s birthday and took time to crack wise on Charlie Sheen’s antics and gave a dissertation on how great marijuana is – with the crowd howling in agreement with wolf whistles and cheers.
WAR came on stage to perform with Tommy Chong playing guitar and Cheech singing along. They brought out classics including “Basketball Jones” and “Me and My Old Lady.” Tommy performed a solo and the audience sang along, laughing hysterically to “Save the Whales,” featuring a great sax solo by WAR’s David Urquidi. Cheech and Chong then sat on stage for fifteen minutes with Shelby asking a round of fan based questions from cards submitted before the show.
Cheech and Chong took a break, letting WAR take the stage to perform classics from their catalogue of hits starting with “Baby Brother” and following a big round of applause, they continued with “Get Up Stand Up,” featuring a solo by Dave Stewart on guitar, “Summertime,” and “Cisco Kid” where front man and only original member Leroy Jordan took the microphone into the audience to let fans sing to the crowd. One elated girl mistook lyrics and sang, “The Cisco Friend was a Kid of Mine.” As mentioned before, there was a lot of pot being smoked down front.
Cheech and Chong returned to the stage performing classic skits. They started with “Dave’s Not Here,” altering some of the original jokes in the routine to include mistaking the President of the United States as “Go Rock Your Mama” in stead of Barack Obama. The skit remained as classic as it was originally recorded. They then ran straight in to the most popular Christmas comedy routine that circulates on FM annually, their classic tribute to Christmas, “Santa Clause and his Old Lady.” They mocked a ride in the car while “Crusin’” and smoking something that might have been “Part Labrador.” (This in reference to “His name is Ralph!”)
WAR returned to the stage and played “Spill the Wine,” “Galaxy” with a bass solo and dueling sax and harmonica solos and a song for the ladies, “So,” and wrapped up this part of the set with the fan favorite “Low Rider.”
Tommy Chong came out on stage again, this time as fading blues legend Blind Melon Chitlin, raising the hopes of both young and old with the song “Get It Legal.” Before cheering attendees could catch their breath, out came Cheech as Alice Bowie, dressed in his pink tutu and jamming out on electric guitar.
Tommy Chong made band announcements, sharing that WAR’s new album was available in the foyer and harmonica guru Stanley Behrens brought the crowd to their feet with his rendition of the National Anthem. Cheech sang two hilarious versions of his classics, “Mexican American” and “Born in East LA,” before WAR brought out the USC Trojan marching band to perform “That L.A. Sunshine.”
WAR rounded out the show with their hit classic “Why Can’t We Be Friends” and select audience participants made their way in to the Hospitality Suite where both Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong made a personal appearance, signed autographs and shared drinks, snacks and a huge chocolate birthday cake with fans before calling it a night. Band members from all the acts stuck around long after the arena closed and celebrated what was the start of the Los Angeles 2014 Summer Performances, and the promise of another year to remember before it goes ‘Up In Smoke.’
Review: Joe Dolan