Kool & the Gang knows how to celebrate good times -- and is enjoying some of its own these days.
After being tapped to open for Van Halen last year, the veteran R&B group is back on the road this summer, mixing its own dates with opening slots for Kid Rock and the Dave Matthews Band. "We bring a slightly different element," notes bassist Robert "Kool" Bell, who co-founded the group during 1964 in New Jersey. "We know how to rock it up a little bit when we need to, and we do our funk thing and pop thing, so we can fit in just about anywhere 'cause we can mix it up like that.
"We've been really doing the international thing for the last two or three years, so it's good to be back in the States again. We'd do things here like fairs and a lot of stuff on the casino side and corporate work, but not like we did with Van Halen last year or what we're doing with Kid Rock this year. It's good to be back to that."
Bell, 62, says he met Kid Rock several years ago in Los Angeles. "He came up to me and told me how in Detroit he used to listen to my music," Bell recalls. "He really liked Kool & the Gang from the funk side. He's a nice guy, and now we're going out together, so it's a good thing."
Also spreading some Kool love these days is Daft Punk, whose single, "Lucky One," name-checks the French duo's elders. "They say, 'If you like Kool & the Gang you'll like Daft Punk,' " Bell says. "I heard that and said, 'Well, that's great. Something like that is always flattering."
Kool & the Gang performs at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on the Amphitheatre Stage during the Stars & Stripes Festival at Freedom Hill, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway. General admission is free; VIP tickets are available for $38. Call (586) 268-5100 or visit www.freedomhill.net.
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