email@example.com Lorrie Irby Jackson is a Dallas freelance writer.
GRAND PRAIRIE – There are two types of ‘old-school performers’: the obligatory, unenthusiastic ‘Be glad I’m here’ kind, and the artists who appear in fine form and are actually willing to please the crowd. That’s what more than 2,000 fans were treated to Sunday night when the Whispers, After 7 and Stephanie Mills brought their sets to the Nokia Theatre.
The Whispers’ show was as intimate as it was inspired; for more than an hour, the quartet earned squeals of delights and shouts of ‘all right now!’ for confessing their inability to change with the times. ‘We’re definitely old school and proud of it!’ one of the Scott twins proclaimed after their rendition of the hit ballad ‘Lady.’ They also acknowledged that they don’t exactly look the same as when they started, but that, ‘It’s okay, we’re still here.’ Judging from their vocals and choreography, it could’ve still been the ’70s. ‘Say Yes,’ ‘And the Beat Goes On’ and ‘Welcome Into My Dreams’ were performed with perfection.
Their rapport with the audience was so intimate that Nicholas Caldwell shared the reason behind his intermittent sitting and dancing: congestive heart failure. He thanked the fans for their support and urged everyone in attendance to care for their health.
Not that it put a pall over their set. ‘Butter,’ a silky cut from their latest CD, put many of the ladies in traction, and their final number, ‘Rock Steady,’ had fans swaying and dancing from start to finish.
After 7’s time on stage was barely long enough to get through a concession line, but the trio still regaled the crowd with grace and energy on favorites like ‘Can’t Stop,’ ‘Ready Or Not’ and ‘Nights Like This.’ During ‘Baby I’m For Real,’ the group’s members walked through the aisles as they performed, with one fan getting a free piggyback ride around the venue as she clung rapturously to one of the trio.
Ms. Mills, looking superyouthful and almost dwarfed by her billowy, layered yellow minidress, had a polished presence and powerful vocals that belied her dimunitive frame. While she was warm to her fans – passing out roses and shaking hands with the dozens who flocked to the front of the stage during her set – the venue’s temperature certainly wasn’t.
‘There is cold air blowing on this stage, right on top of me,’ she said to the crew. ‘Tell them to turn it off.’
When her pleas went unheeded, Ms. Mills generated her own heat by getting her shimmy on, strutting from one end of the stage to the other and delivering ‘(You’re Puttin’) A Rush On Me,’ ‘Jesse,’ and of course, ‘Feel the Fire.’
Her throaty, emotional version of ‘Home’ elicited a standing ovation, as well as calls of ‘Sing that!’ and ‘All right, girl!’ that followed her exit.