Above: Betty Wright. Photo by Media Punch/REX/Shutterstock
When the month of March comes in South Florida, Miami locals and tourists of color from all over the country alike descend into the City of Miami Gardens for a two-day music festival called Jazz in the Gardens.
This has been a tradition for the last 12 years, expanding every year with more exciting acts like R&B Icon Charlie Wilson, American Idol alum Fantasia, and R&B Chameleon Jamie Foxx.
This year was no exception. Day One of the festival began at 4 PM with its All-Stars – R&B Divas’ Chante Moore, Marion Meadows, and Will Downing.
As more patrons arrived at Hard Rock Stadium after the set, I slowly began to see the immense audience this event had attracted.
It was more than who was in the Reserved, Platinum and Prime sections that I had the privilege of sitting in.
Looking past those sections revealed the endless rows of people in their portable lawn chairs and coolers in the General Admission section. There was this comforting “Family Reunion” feeling of fellowship that permeated the air (amongst other things).
The second act was the South Florida R&B Legend Betty Wright, making her festival debut at . She has been a R&B and Soul singer-songwriter since the 1970s, impressing audiences with hits like “Clean Up Woman,” “Tonight Is The Night,” “Where Is The Love,” and “No Pain, No Gain.” Wright is accomplished enough to be one of the few female musicians of color to produce a gold record on her own vanity label.
Talk about the original #BlackGirlMagic.
Her set was a soul-stirring mix of her earlier hits and reinterpreted musical breaks from popular artists like Beyoncé. It got most of the audience of all sections on its feet dancing.
During the break between acts, Stand-up Comedian, Radio Host and TV One Reality Star Rickey Smiley entertained the crowd with his brand of raunchy humor with state, decade, fraternity and sorority shout outs.
What TIME is it???
Coming off the impressive performance at this year’s Grammy Awards, Purple Rain star and original “Uptown Funk” maestro Morris Day and The Time blew up the stage during their set.
Their opening was a video tribute to the beloved Prince, including scenes from the iconic rock movie as its title song and “Let’s Go Crazy” played in the background.
Then the show began.
Above: Morris Day. Photo by Media Punch/REX/Shutterstock
Donning his signature gold three-piece suit and channeling his innately freakaliscous swagger, Morris Day charmed the audience with his sexy and funky classics like “The Oak Tree,” “Cool,” and “777-9311.” And between songs, he was checking himself out in a large mirror held up by none other than his sidekick Jerome, mirroring his on-stage persona from Purple Rain and its sequel Graffiti Bridge.
In between songs, The Time’s frontman gave a playful dig at pop music’s wonder kid Bruno Mars (who he essentially opened for at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards), proclaiming the original funk master title that maybe some mainstream publications/music channels forget.
The encore performance was the band’s biggest hit from Purple Rain – “Jungle Love” – a nightclub staple that got everyone in the crowd up on their feet to do the signature dance move.
After a few celebrity appearances like Miami’s own Flo Rida and a Little Women LA reality star, the tone of concert shifted into the sexy with Mr. White Chocolate himself, Robin Thicke.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking forward to his set Saturday.
That would have been a bleached and blanched yet still dirty lie.
I knew what to expect from a Robin Thicke musical set – talented musicians in his band, artistry of signature hits, artfully styled R&B classics, me singing/screaming every lyric on my feet and dancing like a school girl at a Taylor Swift concert.
But what I didn’t expect was an impromptu set list. At the end of every song, Thicke gauged the audience (and time limit
of his set he was allotted) and yelled out the next song title for his band to perform. Seamlessly, the musicians played an improvised intro to that exact song.
Now, THAT’S how REAL musicians should be able to play for an audience!