*What does a woman do when she gets a last-minute call to sub for a recovering Chaka Khan at the California State Fair?
If you’re the legendary Jody Watley, you do what legends do: you take the stage and shut it down…in a black catsuit, no less!
Watley started with a declaration wrapped in one of the original Shalamar’s earliest hits: “I Can Make You Feel Good.” She and her new bandmates Nate Allen Smith and Rosero McCoy, who formed Shalamar Reloaded last year, more than kept that promise with a first set that included a few other late 70s anthems including “In The Socket,” “Take That To The Bank,” and the group’s first smash, “The Second Time Around.”
Watley paused for a moment to offer a “prayer for healing” for Khan, who had to cancel her scheduled performance at the fair as she battles substance addiction. Afterward, Watley and Shalamar Reloaded eased into a subdued, sultry version of the classic “Full Of Fire” before treating the crowd to two original tunes, “Slow Dance” and “O.R.I.G.In.A.L.,” both of which hold up to anything that Watley or any incarnation of Shalamar has ever done.
After another fan favorite, “A Night To Remember,” Watley, 56, dismissed the guys and returned to, as she put it, “do me.” She did me, too…shamelessly strutting onstage in a black catsuit and leather jacket as she bellowed “If you know age is nothing but a number, say yeah!”
“Before there were all of the girls of today, there was me,” the Grammy winner continued. “I’m an original, and I’m still fabulous.” By that point in the show, Stevie Wonder could have seen she was fabulous.
A phenomenal freestyle set followed, which gave Watley a chance to share the spotlight with her amazing band and dancers before launching into a scorching version of “I Want Your Love” and a stunning, pulled back version of her ballad “Everything.” On this cut, Watley earned her standing ovation for an ever broader vocal range and stronger voice than she had 30 years ago.
We were then treated to the hit that launched her solo career, “Looking For A New Love,” complete with Watley tossing some of her signature hoop earrings into the audience, followed by energetic takes on “Don’t You Want Me,” “Some Kinda Lover,” “Friends,” and “Real Love.”
Several other incredible acts will roll into Sacramento during the next two weeks of the California State Fair, including Tower of Power and the Pointer Sisters, but I don’t envy them having to follow Jody Watley and Shalamar Reloaded. Catch them in concert if you can!
Hasta la vista, baby!