The Mighty O’Jays and their “Love Train” rolled into Artpark on a warm summer night. Backed by a massive ensemble, the singing trio delivered a succinct set of their greatest hits that had all of Artpark dancing. If it is indeed their farewell tour, the O’Jays are going out when they are still able to deliver an incredible performance.
The evening kicked off at 6:30 p.m. with a 45-minute set by the Average White Band. The group was the perfect choice to open for the O’Jays, and they had the crowd dancing, especially on their biggest hits “Cut the Cake” and “Pick up the Pieces.”
The sax duo of Fred Vigdor and Cliff Lyons did a great job adding just the right amount of funk to the band’s set. Original AWB members Onnie Mcintyre and Alan Gorrie proved they can still play and get a crowd going.
After their set, members of the Average White Band hung out in the front of stage area to catch the O’Jays. AWB singer Brent Carter could be seen mouthing the words to all of the songs. It was great to see members from a co-headliner go out and enjoy some music with the fans.
The O’Jays came out onstage at 8 p.m., wearing baby blue suits and displaying perfect dance moves and singing amazing harmonies. The group works the stage like masters, spreading out to fill the stage at some points, and coming together to create a perfect focal point when needed.
The backing group was massive, and the musicianship was incredible. There were around 15 members onstage, they were very polished and a crucial part of the group’s performance, creating a massive sound that filled the venue.
Fans of the band could be spotted throughout the park, dancing, singing and enjoying each other’s company. Some attendees dressed in '70s-styled outfits, and the crowd itself was a nice mix of younger and older fans. There hasn’t been this much dancing and fun since Aretha Franklin performed at the Tuesday series.
As expected, the highlight of their set was “Love Train,” which whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and after the song was over they asked the crowd if they wanted to “hear it again” and the group sang the entire song again. The second rendition of the song was just as well received as the first version.
O’Jays lead singer and founding member Eddie Levert joked about turning 77 years old on Sunday as the three members sat on stools to perform a few songs. Levert’s voice still sounds great, and at 77, he has not lost any of his love of performing.
Before the group performed “Now That We Found Love” Levert noted it was a hit for Heavy D & The Boyz. “I always thought our version was better, and we are going to do that for you now,” Levert said before they launched into a beautiful rendition of the song.
The night ended with a great version of “For the Love of Money,” which had most of the concertgoers on their feet. It’s an iconic song and the live version was powerful and fun.
The entire evening was filled with some old-school fun and was the perfect way to spend a summer evening. The O’Jays proved why they are deserving of all the honors and accolades, and the message in their songs still resonates.
Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for the Niagara Gazette.