Interstate 99 wasn’t quite the “Freeway Of Love” last weekend, as I anxiously drove to Modesto to catch Forever Motown, a tribute to Detroit’s greatest musical exports.
I love the music, just like the rest of the world. But I was born and raised in Detroit. So when I learned that GC Cameron, one of the original lead singers of The Spinners, was the sole Motown originator who would be on stage, I almost opted for a beer while perched on my couch in lieu of a short Sunday sojourn to the Gallo Center for the Arts.
Just a few hours later, I found myself not just up and off of the couch. I was “Dancing In The Street.”
That Martha & The Vandellas chart-topper kicked off a fabulous night of music and memories, with sets devoted to Motown legends like The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Spinners, and The Marvelettes…and that was just the show’s first half. “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Ooh Baby Baby,” “Please Mr Postman.” “What’s Going On”…the show started off with a bang.
That first half also included Cameron’s sole solo hit, “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” during which the 74 year old gave everything he had. The singer who used to be known as “The Man With Six Voices” may have lost track and / or control of one or two of them over the decades, but his remaining voices were more than adequate to drive many Modesto fans to their feet.
After a brief intermission, Motown’s biggest stars, Diana Ross & The Supremes, were honored by a set of singers and musicians who more than did their catalog justice. The following Stevie Wonder segment was vocally and musically brilliant, but the performer skirted with parody with his colorful dashiki, sunglasses, and trademark horizontal sway while performing. The show got back on track quickly though, with a reverential Commodores set and a masterful Temptations medley.
And Forever Motown wrapped up in the only way that it possibly could, with “Ain’t No Motown High Enough,” brilliantly performed by a dynamic soloist named Champaign. Miss Ross would have been proud.
The concert’s setlist left me scratching my head a couple of times. The Jackson 5 were noticeably absent, while The Commodores, who entered the scene a decade after Motown’s heyday, were honored while other 70s Motown sensations, like Rick James and Teena Marie, were not.
Ike & Tina Turner were covered, although they never recorded for Motown. And Cameron mysteriously sang Spinners hits that were released by another label, after he left the group to pursue his solo career.
Over two hours after the show began, I walked out of the Gallo Center knowing that we will never see the likes of Motown again. But it was great to see performers who are young enough to be Motown founder Berry Gordy’s great grandchildren performing the music that his label introduced to the world sixty years ago.
That music does and will live on. Motown IS forever!