Just like in The Temptations song “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” I sure did love the way the Temptations and The Four Tops did the things they do last night at the Filene Center at Wolftrap. The two legendary Motown bands, who have frequently toured together since the 1980s, gave a fantastic performance last night despite the inclement weather. The packed house was treated first to the debonair choreography, distinctive harmonies, and glittery wardrobes that was the signature of The Temptations.
The Temptations, formed in 1960 and after many personnel changes, currently includes: Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon, Bruce Williamson, and the only surviving member of the original Temptations lineup, Otis Williams. They kept the crowd on the feet dancing, clapping, and singing along with all of their classic favorites including “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” “Just my Imagination (Running Away with Me), and of course, “My Girl.” The voices were in perfect harmony and Joe Herndon’s deep, booming, flawlessly smooth voice was definitely a treat for my ears and his suave dance moves was definitely a treat for my eyes! One of the highlights of the performance was the solo of “For Your Love” done by Otis Williams, who rarely sings solo. Another highlight of the night was the 10-piece horn section, The Carolina Horns, that tours as a part of the band. Having a live horn section is definitely a treat!
The Four Tops rounded out the night with a rousing, soul-touching, performance of their most popular songs. The Four Tops, known for genre crossing repertoire of doo-wop, jazz, soul, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, and showtune music, was formed in 1953 and the lineup did not change for 44 years until the death of one of its members. The current lineup includes Abdul “Duke” Fakir (the only living original member), Lawrence Payton Jr. (son of original member Lawrence Payton), Ronnie McNeir, and Harold Bonhart. The packed crowd of hard core fans in the pavilion and the lawn braved the torrential downpour that started a few minutes after The Four Tops appeared on stage to hear songs including “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Bernadette,” “Shake Me, Wake Me (When Its Over),” “Still Water,” “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I’ve Got,” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There.” My absolute favorite moment of the night—perhaps my favorite musical experience of 2013—was the 3 songs in the middle of the set that was meant to be a tribute to the quartet’s original members. The tribute started out with a monologue from Duke about the friendship, or should I say the brotherhood, he shared with the 3 other original members, that I believe touched every single person in that audience and made us all think about those special friends we have or had in our own lives. Then they performed Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” in tribute to its songwriter, original Four Tops member Renaldo “Obie” Benson. Then Lawrence Payton Jr sang an amazing cover of Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father Again” in tribute to his own father—Lawrence Payton Sr. The audience was so entranced, you could hear a pin drop during “Junior’s” performance and with his sister cheering him on in the audience, I am pretty sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time he was done. The final song in the trio of tribute songs was a solo cover of Sinatra’s “My Way” performed by Duke. He introduced the song by saying that listening to this song lately has him thinking about his journey, and The Four Tops journey and that he thought it was great way to pay tribute and say “Thanks” to the family he found in The Four Tops and the fans that supported them. He also admitted that he isn’t a solo singer, “its just not what he does” but I don’t know why. His voice is strong and controlled and so well suited to the song. Bravo, Duke! The Four Tops ended this incredible night with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”
The double-billing with The Temptations and The Four Tops was definitely a special treat and it was just awe-inspiring to be in the same space as some of these influential, renowned, music pioneers. It was so touching to think about how their love of music has sustained them for so many years and how Otis and Duke have been doing this for a half a century and they keep doing it for the love of the music. They are just remarkable! What a fantastic night it was, indeed!
The Temptations and The Four Tops played one night only on June 27, 2013 at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap – 1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and Information: Call (877) 965-3872, or check their calendar of events.