The Magical Music of Motown Strikes a Joyful Chord in Santa Barbara
The Iconic Sound of the '60s and '70s Still Resonates Today
From the first crowd-pleasing notes of “I’ll Be There” — the Jackson 5 version peppered my early childhood dance parties — to the final chords of “River Deep Mountain High” — an Ike and Tina Turner classic — the seemingly timeless anthems of Motown are truly the comfort food of music. Like auditory pizza or mac and cheese (there are better versions, but there are no bad versions), it’s hard to go wrong with this music.
Lucky for us, the Magical Music of Motown — a “supergroup tribute band” of four singers and seven musicians (some of whom played with the original Motown crew of artists) — overwhelmingly gets it right, which is why their return to the Lobero Theatre has become an annual tradition for many fans. This is one of those shows where it only took a note or two for almost the entire audience to be able to recognize every song and be ready to sing along. In fact I had several moments of thinking, “This should really be our next karaoke night playlist.”
While I can’t really speak to the authenticity of their reportedly faithful recreations of performances by Motown legends, collectively, this team of longtime pros has played or recorded with huge names like Stevie Wonder; The Temptations; the Jacksons; The Supremes; Martha Reeves and the Vandellas; Marvin Gaye; Four Tops; Gladys Knight; Earth, Wind & Fire; Isaac Hayes; and Aretha Franklin, and their ease with the material is obvious.
The joy that this Motown music — songs such as “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Heatwave,” “My Girl,” “Tracks of My Tears,” “What’s Goin’ On,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Tears of a Clown,” “Signed Sealed Delivered,” “How Sweet It Is,” and “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” for starters — still evokes, not to mention its universal ability to get people up out of their seats and dancing along, is the utter definition of a classic tune.
Many of these catchy melodies were first defined by the reverb effect Motown created by pumping tracks through an echo chamber long before computers and synthesizers existed, but the reverb at the Lobero last week didn’t need any kind of amplification or alteration — it was simply the sounds of the crowd, singing along to the soundtrack of their lives.
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