Review: Isley Brothers at The Kennedy Center

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The Isley Brothers rocked into The Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall this last Sunday night. Though the Hall is still standing, it may never be the same.

Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Since their founding in 1955, the Isley Brothers have recorded numerous Gold and Platinum Albums, with dozens of number 1 hits. Their first Grammy Award came in 1970 with “It’s Your Thing.”

Since their induction into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1992, the Isley Brothers have continued to record top 20 hits, including two more R&B Grammy nominations in 2002 and 2004, for “Contagious” and “Body Kiss.”

Finally, in 2014, the Brothers earned a Lifetime Achievement Award.

But this Sunday’s performance wasn’t about past success; it was about these brothers and their band’s continuing ability to dazzle audiences with an array of stylings as varied as the years that they have performed.

The evening’s show included all the familiar favorites, with Ronald Isley still at the vocal helm. His younger brother Ernie took lead guitar and, in Hendrix-like fashion (Jimi Hendrix played with the Isley Brother’s backing band in the early 60s when Ernie was still a youngster), got the audience standing in applause.

A couple of the more memorable moments from the evening included, of course, the funk single “It’s your Thing” and the lovely “You’re all I Need” with backup singers Kandy Johnson and Alex Isley adding excellent harmonies.

Ernie really got his thing going on the evening’s tribute to Prince, “Voyage to Atlantis.” The evening also included a beautiful rendition of Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze.”

And Kandy Johnson let loose on another tribute, this time to Whitney Houston, singing “Jesus Loves Me.”

I would be remiss in my responsibilities, however, if I did not mention the appearance of the one and only Mr. Biggs. Ronald, dressed in the most impressive red coat you will ever have a chance to see, gave us “This is Mr. Biggs.” And don’t be surprised if at a future date you see that red icon of R&B in the National Museum of African American History and Culture soon.

The evening concluded with a salute to 1959 with their hit song “Shout.” With the backup singers, the evening three fabulous dancing girls, and the whole band (trumpeters, percussionists, and keyboard) joining in, the audience rocked into the Great Halls until well after the last note sounded.

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission

The Isley Brothers played on November 5, 2017, at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington DC. For the full season at the musical offerings at The Kennedy Center go online.

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Robert Michael Oliver
Poet, Performer, Theatre Artist, Playwright, Educator, Writer--Robert Michael Oliver, Ph.D., has been involved in the DC arts scene since the 1980s, when he co-founded The Sanctuary Theatre in the old sanctuary of Calvary United Methodist Church. Since those fierce days in Columbia Heights, he has earned his doctorate in theatre from University of Maryland, raised two wonderful children, and seen more theatre as a reviewer over the last two years than he saw in the previous thirty. He now co-directs, along with his wife Elizabeth Bruce, the Sanctuary's Performing Knowledge Project, which organizes a host of writing and performance workshops, plus Mementos: Poetry and Performance for Seniors, a yearly literature-in-performance Fringe Festival show, as well as Performetry--a monthly poetry and prose performance event at DC's community arts & culture center BloomBars.