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Concert Reviews:
Was (Not Was) Brings The Funk At Homecoming Show
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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By GARY GRAFF

Of the Oakland Press

DETROIT -- Contrary to conventional wisdom, you CAN go home again -- just ask Was (Not Was).

Promoting "Boo!," its first new album in 18 years, the Detroit-formed group, now based mostly in Los Angeles, came home Friday (May 9) and rocked the Majestic Theatre with 90 minutes of deeply grooving funk mixed with rock and jazz touches and rich harmonies by the troupe's three singers. It was also as heartfelt a homecoming as you'd expect, even moreso than the band's New Year's Eve show as part of its 2004 reunion tour.

Don Was (ne Fagenson), the dreadlocked bassist and co-founder, admitted to being "jittery" before the show and even had to leave a dinner at the Majestic Cafe early because he was seeing too many people from his past. Even previous band members made their presence known -- former keyboardist Luis Resto in person while saxophonist David McMurray, now part of Kid Rock's entourage, called in on his wife's cell phone, which was passed around the tour bus prior to the set.

And Fagenson could not tell the friends-and-family saturated crowd enough how special the night was for the group.

But Was (Not Was) certainly did its part in that special equation, playing a career-spanning selection that included early favorites such as "Hello Operator" and "Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball)" to performances of "Boo!'s" hottest ("Semi-Interesting Week," "Your Luck Won't Last") and most tender ("From the Head to the Heart") tracks. Guitarist Randy Jacobs and mono-monikered saxophonist Schilts extended the group's biggest hit, "Walk the Dinosaur," with a hot mid-song jam, and Was (Not Was) paid tribute to early radio and club supporters such as the Electrifying Mojo with a medley of club hits like "Tell Me That I'm Dreaming," "Wheel Me Out" and "Out Come the Freaks."

The night's biggest surprise, however, was a guest appearance by Mitch Ryder -- not for "Bow Wow Wow Wow," which he sang on Was (Not Was)'s 1983 album "Born to Laugh at Tornadoes," but an R&B-flavored, harmony-laded take of "Devil With a Blue Dress On" that was closer to Shorty Long's treatment than to the fury of Ryder's hit 1966 version.

Towards the end of the night Fagenson promised the Majestic crowd that "we'll never forget this night -- I mean that." And it will most likely stick in the memory of anyone who was there, too.



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