Hours before the beginning of a recent concert featuring the “Queen of Percussion,” Sheila E., the opening act for the headliner — everyone’s favorite “uncle,” the former leader singer for Gap Band, Charlie Wilson who has since resurrected his career as a soloist punctuated by onstage swagger and silky-smooth vocal stylings, I had to choose whether I should ignore warnings of a potential summer storm or make my way to the show.
In the end, I found my way to Wolf Trap — one of the DMV’s most popular outdoor pavilions and the venue for the evening’s entertainment. And while I’d already seen Uncle Charlie several times and Sheila during a previous show over the past several months, also interviewing both, the concert they collectively performed will be one I’ll never forget.
Naturally, Sheila E. closed out her portion of the show with “The Glamorous Life,” tossing her drumsticks into the air, tossing her drums across the stage — even pushing the button to slay the crowd with a slew of syncopated rhythms pounded out while laying on her back. She also performed her most recent hit, “America,” as well as another fan favorite, “A Love Bizarre.”
But when she paid tribute to her close friend, the late Prince playing several of his most-beloved songs that included “Baby, I’m a Star” and “Purple Rain,” she clearly confirmed her love and respect for her close friend, colleague and confident. With that, she threw down the gauntlet for Wilson.
And as I, and so many others, fully expected, Uncle Charlie did not disappoint.
Taking the stage with his ensemble of musicians and dancers, the first song, as has become his signature, remained “Party Train” — complete with locomotive whistles and outfits reminiscent of conductors from yesteryear.
The list of hits, some from the years when he and his two brothers dominated the airwaves as members of The Gap Band, and others from the solo career which he continues to enjoy today, included: “Burn Rubber on Me,” “Yearning for Your Love,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Charlie, Last Name Wilson,” and the now-surging hit single, “Chills.”
Sheila E., now 60 and Charlie Wilson, 65, have had their share of ups and downs — sometimes finding themselves in valleys that would cause others to throw up their hands in defeat. But that’s not the way either of these iconic entertainers have been willing to become overwhelmed by setbacks or personal challenges.
Instead, they have used the healing power of music to not only reinvigorate themselves but to also provide inspiration to their fans. What a concert. What a talented twosome. If you weren’t there — you missed it!