Music Review: SHALAMAR – O2 Ritz, Manchester

Shalamar UK Tour 2018

Delivering their unique blend of funk, disco and soul, 80s legends Shalamar still know how to give the audience a night to remember

Following their successful FRIENDS 35TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR earlier this year, American R&B and soul group Shalamar make a welcome return to the UK for two extra dates at the Indigo O2 in London and O2 Ritz in Manchester.

Best known for their hits in the 1970s and 80s, Shalamar was originally created by SOUL TRAIN TV producer and host Don Cornelius and talent promoter Dick Griffey back in 1977. The group had a string of top 20 hits in the UK including TAKE THAT TO THE BANK (1978), I OWE YOU ONE (1980), I CAN MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD (1982), A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1982) and THERE IT IS (1982), selling over 25 million records and winning over 100 gold, silver and platinum awards worldwide.

The latest incarnation of the group sees original members Howard Hewett and Jeffrey Daniel join forces with Carolyn Griffey, the daughter of the group’s creator Dick Griffey and subsequent founder of Solar Records, to deliver their unique blend of funk, disco and soul. Opening with TALK TO ME before quickly moving into feel-good track RIGHT IN THE SOCKET, it’s clear that Shalamar still know how to put on a show. Backed by a solid eight-piece band, the group keep the energy high by leaving no gaps between the numbers and encouraging the audience to get up and dance for tracks such as FRIENDS, DEAD GIVE AWAY and TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

Shalamar UK Tour 2018

Those who remember Shalamar will know that alongside their music, the group were considered fashion icons and trendsetters, particularly in the dance scene. Original member Jeffrey Daniel is best known for introducing body popping to the UK, catching the eye of the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, with his dance skills on TOP OF THE POPS. Daniel went on to co-choreograph Jackson’s BAD and SMOOTH CRIMINAL music videos in the late 80s, and despite being in his 60s, didn’t disappoint on the night, wowing the crowd with his slick dance moves including his signature backslide – the move that eventually evolved into Michael Jackson’s famous Moon Walk.

Shame then that a lot of Shalamar’s tracks sound very similar in style, showing little evolution in their music throughout the years. Even their new single THE REAL THING doesn’t sound much different with its disco-like beat and soulful vocals. Don’t get me wrong, Hewett, Daniel and Griffey are talented individuals but by the end of the set, you are left craving something new and fresh.

There is also a slight lull in proceedings as each member takes to the stage for their solo spot, most notably lead singer Hewett who slows down the overall mood with SOMEWHERE THERE IS A LOVE and FOR THE LOVER IN YOU. While Hewett still has the voice, hitting the high falsetto notes with ease, you could see the crowd start to get restless, eager for the more upbeat disco hits.

Thankfully, it isn’t long before the group are back on a high, saving the best for last as they belt out hits from their 1982 FRIENDS album including THERE IT IS and I CAN MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD, which is cleverly mashed up with Sister Sledge’s HE’S THE GREATEST DANCER.

The biggest reaction, however, is left for the encore, an extended version of A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, delighting the crowd and providing a fitting finale to an evening that most fans are unlikely to forget.

3.5 out of 5 stars

SHALAMAR performed at the O2 Ritz on 27 November 2018.