The O'Jays at the O2, London
The O'Jays – Indigo2 at the O2, London: Thursday 18th September 2014
This was quite an occasion, the first night of a two-night run at London's O2 Arena for legendary soul vocal group, The O'Jays. They were appearing in London for the first time in over 20 years, with a classic line-up featuring original and founding members Eddie Levert and Walter Williams, plus Eric Nolan Grant who joined the group almost 20 years ago in 1995.
The trio hit the stage about 9.10 pm and went through a 90 minute set supported by a tight 11-piece band including their own rhythm section, a 4-piece horn section from the UK and backing vocalists. They drew a good Thursday night crowd who cheered wildly as they came on in their white suits and matching shoes, opening with 'Give The People What They Want' from 1974, Eddie's voice still showing real edge, the rhythm giving them the pace and opportunity for some neat choreography. The smooth soul of 'Lovin' You' had the crowd cheering yet again while 'Forever Mine' elicited some nice gospel-styled testifying from Walter. The vocal harmonies throughout were sharp and strong, and tellingly so in the closing bars of 'Forever Mine', before 'Back Stabbers' raised the pace once more, the harmonies flying high behind Eddie's lead. 'Let Me Make Love To You' gave Eddie the chance for some 'getting close to the audience' time, which he used to good effect with some nice touches of humour, then it was the smooth choreography and harmonised vocals of 'Cry Together' and 'Stairway To Heaven', before 'I Love Music' lifted the whole feel yet again.
Eddie introduced the band members before each of the three took a solo spot with a song from each in turn including Eddie's 'Family Reunion'. There was even a reference to Scottish independence from Eddie ('as one we can always win') which segued into a snatch of Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' and a barnstorming 'Love Train' with Walter out front and Eddie and Eric doing some fast stepping. 'Use Ta Be My Girl' and 'For The Love Of Money' maintained the pace and took us through to the end with most of the audience up and dancing. A legendary act, still a potent force as performers, and an exciting show. Great to see them back in the UK; let's hope they return soon. Seamus McGarvey ('Juke Blues' magazine UK, with thanks to Cilla Huggins)
Eddie and Walter.
Eroc Nolan Grant.