Frankie Beverly & Maze still alive and well

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ATLANTA—Icy winds cooled the often hot downtown Atlanta streets to a bone-chilling 15-degrees, but inside the Fabulous Fox Theater on Peachtree Street, a sizzling and soulful concert headlined by Frankie Beverly and Maze, made it feel hotter than July.

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FRANKIE BEVERLY AND MAZE

The Philly-born Beverly graciously acknowledged the sold-out venue and told his fans that another show, also in downtown Atlanta and headlined by The O’Jays and Charlie Wilson—also sold-out of tickets.

“Only in the ATL,” he said with a prideful smile.

Both weekend shows were held Saturday evening and attracted about 5,000 patrons each.

Mazes’ 90-minute performance was characteristically noted by smooth, souful grooves, gospel-like vocal harmonies and Frankie’s patented raspy lead vocals.

The lead singer also proudly acknowledged that he recently celebrated birthday 63, but his on-stage antics and energetic moves proves that he’s cognizant of maintaining his fit and trim physique.

While cool and collected audience members relaxed and enjoyed the smooth-funky beats, Frankie and his seven-piece unit, including budding-star guitarist John “Jubu” Smith, and longtime percussionists McKinley “Bug” Williams and Roame Lowry, provided a non-stop barrage of hits like “Can’t Get Over You,” “We Are One,” “Runnin’ Away” “Joy and Pain” and an extended-jam version of “Before I Let Go.” The group also added a few of their early 1970s hits, namely, “While I’m Alone,” “Golden Time of Day” and their all-time anthem, “Happy Feelings.” Other fan favorites were played during their lengthy but enjoyable set-list. Maze is often dubbed Black America’s answer to The Grateful Dead and Widespread Panic—with its ever-growing legion of fans, based on the group’s hardworking on-stage ethics and reputation, minus the need to create new studio material.

The concert was opened by vocalist KeKe Wyatt, known for her remake of “My First Love” with Cleveland singer, Avant.

Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino, both American Idol champs, followed suit and stayed true to the show’s old-school theme.

In addition to their current hits, Ruben and Fantasia provided tributes of sorts, with Ruben covering hits by Luther Vandross and Johnnie Taylor while Fantasia kicked off her shoes in Patti LaBelle fashion and sang in her patented high-powered vocalese, to “Tell Me Somethin’ Good” by Rufus and Chaka Khan and two Prince-penned classics, “Kiss” and “Purple Rain.”

Nearly four hours later, a satisfied throng of “real soul music” fans, peacefully filed out of several Fox Theater exit doors.

Neecy Henderson, 38, of Decatur, an Atlanta suburb, shouted, “Frankie is still ours.”

The first-time Maze concertgoer clarified her statement, adding that Frankie and Maze never crossed-over and largely remain a Black, R&B act, void of major media machinery.

Karen Solomon of Mobile, Ala., agreed.

“She’s right. It had a real good feeling here tonight. Almost like we were thrown back into the good times of the 1970s,” said the self-described “mid-50ish” woman, who claims to have seen “several” Maze performances.

“This is one of their best shows ever,” she said.

Frankie ended the show with his gospel-inspired hit, “I Wanna Thank You,” upon which he started the tune with 2010 New Year’s wishes to all, while repeating, “Thank You Jesus,” his way of giving thanks to the good Lord for providing his band 34 years of success and into the future.

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