The Carolina Theatre of Durham is the perfect venue in the Triangle to provide an intimate and unique musical experience, and Boney James filled every inch of the space on Friday, April 3 when he arrived with his explosive saxophonic style and his winning personality. Bouncing on the stage in his trademark fedora, black jacket, tee, jeans and leather sneakers, he proceeded to blow away every single one of the more than 1,000 audience members in the historic theater.
The Grammy-nominated jazz musician and songwriter arrived on stage almost fifteen minutes late with members of his audience still arriving, but roused the audience right away with encouraging waves of his hand, a tap to his fedora, and an energetic rocking-type dance step that telegraphed his passion for his music. The first part of his hour-and-a-half set showcased the alto and tenor sax, recognizable Boney James songs that rouse the audience to a round of yells and claps that rival what most artists receive at the end of their shows. James thanked the audience, mentioned being happy to be back at the Carolina (he last performed there in 2013), then shrugged and said, “We’re just gonna keep jammin’, if that’s cool with you.” It was.
His third song, “Grand Central,” off his 2001 CD Ride. The tune, written during his time in New York, was inspired by the historical train station and epitomizes the smooth jazz category of music with his signature bluesy flavor. The extensive use of long notes and a head-bopping beat bespeaks a R&B flavor for which James and his music is well known.
Boney James’ new CD, futuresoul, offered in the lobby prior to the show and signed by the artist afterward, is not even streaming yet, but the audience got a sneak peek/listen to a few tracks. Futuresoul combines some classic soul and blues with current pieces – thus the title – and will be available in May. On the way home, this writer listened to the CD and can pretty much guarantee that James’ latest will be just as popular and bestselling as his previous gold-selling albums, (1995’s Seduction, 1998’s Sweet Thing, and 1999’s Body Language). James calls it “retro music for a modern age” but further definition might be “funky soulful jazz for now and the future.”
Some of the music the backup musicians (keyboardist Paul Jackson, Jr., drummer Omari Williams, bassist Dwayne Smitty Smith, and lead guitar/vocalist Norris Jones) rocked out on were pieces that Boney James said they had “just learned today.” By the response of the crowd, they were all hits, even before hitting the stores. And the musicians proved their mettle as well, with each taking a turn at solos, including a particularly spectacular drum solo by Omari Williams, a drumming beast whose elongated performance resulted in a standing ovation.
Prior to venturing out into the audience for “Contact,” James took a fall into the corner of the stage, eliciting some concern, but he bounded back into the middle of the stage, cracking, “You guys didn’t see that, did you?” Then he took the stairs offstage to move into the audience where he chose a woman to share a hip-swiveling groove with him before sashaying deeper into the audience to make that contact a reality. He stood on one of the chairs to point his sax to the balcony, giving that part of the audience an invitation to step into the action. The rest of the viewers needed no such invitation: everyone stood on their feet, rocking and yelling their appreciation (“Go Boney, Go Boney, Go Boney!”).
The concert wrapped up with “Ain’t No Sunshine” on the soprano sax and swept right into “Sweet Thing,” to get everyone back on their feet, clapping and dancing. There was no way the crowd was going to let Boney go after that rousing rendition, so in spite of saying “Goodbye, Carolina,” he was back onstage within two moments for the encore: “Grazing in the Grass.”
As the crowd exited, faces beamed, heads bobbed and people hummed. The comment overheard more than any other was, “Can’t wait to get that CD.” The party continued around the table where Boney signed the new CD and joked with the crowd. Carolina Theatre patrons cannot wait for this artist to return to the stage there.
BONEY JAMES (The Carolina Theatre, April 3 in Fletcher Hall in Durham, NC).
SHOW: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/events/boney-james-1 and https://www.facebook.com/events/337923933058609/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeRk1ilxktw.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaTheatreDurham, and https://twitter.com/CarolinaDurham.
Boney James (nee James Oppenheim, saxophonist and songwriter, born 1961): http://www.boneyjames.com/ (official website), http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/artists/boney-james/ (Concord Music Group bio), https://www.facebook.com/boneyjames (Facebook Page) https://twitter.com/boneyjames (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boney_James (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.com/.