This story was posted on the Orange County Register Web site on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009.
Some artists continue to challenge themselves long into their careers, writing and recording new music, often selecting young producers to help bring their sound into the modern era.
Then there’s KC & the Sunshine Band.
The group was more than happy to simply celebrate all things ‘70s at Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on Friday night, July 31, 2009. With the large video screens showing a gigantic mirror ball before KC and company even hit the stage, the disco heroes gave the nostalgic crowd exactly what they wanted. For the mostly middle-age audience (with more than a few perplexed kids in tow), this was a time-traveling experience, during which a few beers and dance hits brought plenty of smiles and memories back for 90 minutes of good times.
Harry Wayne Casey (his surname became “KC,” while “Sunshine Band” is a nod to his home state of Florida) has gained a few pounds since he rose to fame in the mid-’70s, and his thin voice was often obscured Friday by the ensemble of players around him. Yet their parade of hits kept the party going from start to finish.
From the first strains of “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” to the evening-ending medley that fused “Get Down Tonight” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” together with all the bombast of a Las Vegas revue, KC proved to be a gracious and personable host with a single aim: to please.
KC blended a mix of his hits with winning humor, often introducing songs with lines such as “this is 1976, isn’t it?” or self-effacing humor: “I’m 58 years old. Get a good look at me: this is what Justin Timberlake is going to look like in 30 years.”
In the music-making department, it was best when the band, featuring backing vocalists and dancers as well as horns and a top-notch rhythm section, stuck to upbeat disco smashes. When KC sat down to deliver a tender R&B version of “Please Don’t Go,” the chatting crowd stripped any emotion out of the ballad.
But when the group stuck to funk- and disco-fueled material like “I’m Your Boogie Man,” “That’s the Way (I Like It)” and “Give It Up,” well, everyone hit the dance floor like it really was ’76.
Although Evelyn “Champagne” King didn’t have as many hits as the Sunshine Band, she made every minute of her half-hour opening set count. A strong singer best known for “Shame,” her Top 10 single from 1978, King showcased a fine blend of R&B, disco and funk courtesy of extended takes on “Love Come Down” and her signature tune. Backed by a strong band, including husband-guitarist Freddie Fox, her set got the party started early.