Review: ‘Sly & The Family Stone’ Celebrate Their 50th Anniversary

Legendary soul group Sly & The Family Stone grooved and moved the audience with unfiltered funky beats and unparalleled energy at Montgomery College’s Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center in a performance which featured funky vocals, unbelievable drumming, fancy guitar playing and psychedelic soul. The show was part of a tour celebrating the group’s 50th anniversary and featured a rug-cutting set of their Psychedelic Funk classic hits.

The band, which originated in San Francisco, originally consisted of founding singer\songwriter Sly Stone (71 and in semi-retirement) and his brother singer\keyboarder Freddie, keyboardist and singer Rose Stone, drummer Greg Errico and trumpeter Cynthia Robinson (she passed away November 23, 2015). Sly & The Family Stone is ranked 43rd in the Rolling Stone list of “The Greatest Artists of All-Time” and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. The group has influenced such artists as Michael Jackson, Prince, John Legend, Lenny Kravitz and Cee Lo Green.

The show at Montgomery College featured the vivacious vocals of Stone’s daughter Phunne Stone (Stone and Robinson’s daughter), singer\keyboarder Alex Davis, Errico on drums, Jerry Martini on saxophone, the excellent Nate Wingfield on guitar, Jimmy McKinney (from the group Graham Central Station) on keys, and Musical Director Blaise Sison on bass (who was on point throughout).

“Sing a Simple Song” got the concert started in grand fashion, as the group played in front of a spare, black set which featured blue and purple lights and hazy stage smoke. Next, the audience was on its collective feet, clapping and swaying to “Everyday People”, which hit Billboard’s Top 100 in February 1969.

“There is something missing from the 60s, 70s…until now, that word is L.O.V.E., said Davis, before the band launched into two of their most mesmerizing hits Dance to the Music, which had nearly everyone in attendance moving to the groove, and “Hot Fun In The Summertime,” which had the audience singing along and swaying.

“High on You“ from the album ”High On You and “Stand!” (the album Stand! was preserved in the Library of Congress in 2015) followed, with nearly everyone in attendance standing, singing and moving in some way or another. I thought Wingfield’s guitar would explode during his magnificent solo during the group’s pop\funk anthem “Family Affair”. As the rest of the group took a quick break, drummer Errico simply killed his drum set in a drum solo that went on for several magnificent minutes and ended with a roof-bursting ovation.

Stone emotionally took time out to acknowledge her late mother, Cynthia Robinson, who passed away November 23rd of last year. Davis encouraged the audience to look to the sky to acknowledge her memory. Also not there, but very much alive and in the thoughts of adoring fans was Sly himself. “He’s alright, he called my house last night,” said Martini.

“Everybody is a Star”, which featured Stone’s amazing vocals, “M’Lady” and “Do it While You are Here” turned the show into a pure party. “If your head and feet aren’t moving, lay down, you are dead!” quipped Davis.

“I Want to Take You Higher” from the album Stand, was the most energetic, fantastic, example of explosive pop\funk energy anyone’s ever likely to see in person. Davis wondered if there was time for the proverbial “one more?” There was, as Sly & The Family Stone finished their set with the apropos Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). Sly & The Family Stone produced an evening of love, peace and social consciousness. The show was sheer funky fun throughout. A groovy time was had by all.

Running Time: Two hours, with no intermission.

Sly & The Family Stone played for one night only November 19, 2016, at Montgomery College’s Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center – 51 Mannakee Street, in Rockville, MD. For future events at Montgomery College’s Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center go to their calendar of events, or call the box office at (240) 567-5301.



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