Concert Review - N'Dambi, Babyface and Charlie Wilson

By Melody Charles

Charlie Wilson stopped for a moment under the spotlight, popped his collar and tilted his hat. "I survived prostate cancer," he announced with a flourish. "How do I look?"

It was moments like this, combining talent and testimony, that kept the near-capacity crowd of thousands cheering, applauding and rejoicing with the survivor and soul legend, who made sure his concert was a non-stop party for the new school and the true school fans in Dallas' Verizon Theatre on Saturday night.

By Melody Charles

Charlie Wilson stopped for a moment under the spotlight, popped his collar and tilted his hat. "I survived prostate cancer," he announced with a flourish. "How do I look?"

It was moments like this, combining talent and testimony, that kept the near-capacity crowd of thousands cheering, applauding and rejoicing with the survivor and soul legend, who made sure his concert was a non-stop party for the new school and the true school fans in Dallas' Verizon Theatre on Saturday night.

Five months after the release of his latest CD, Just Charlie, the veteran performer is years into a personal and professional comeback, celebrating 16 years of marriage, 17 years of sobriety and a back-to-back run of chart-topping wedding-worthy songs, "There Goes My Baby" and "You Are," both of which enjoyed months in the top slot. It was those numbers and older hits that "Uncle Charlie" performed, backed by a seven-piece band (comprised competently of brothers and nephews) and four female dancers called "Charlie's Angels," who stylishly and sassily shadowed his choreographed moves.  With his buttery vocal runs, extended notes---one that he challenged the audience to time him on must've gone for at least a full minute ---and perpetual dancing, it's hard to believe that Mr. Wilson is well into his 50s, but he and the band served up faithful renditions of "Party Train," "You Dropped A Bomb On Me," "Burn Rubber on Me" and "Outstanding," which he dedicated to his ecstatic fans. Newer songs, like his remake of Roger Troutman's "I Wanna Be Your Man," an updated version of Zapp's "Doo Wa Ditty" and Guy's "Let's Chill" endeared him to every possible demographic in the building.

Babyface wasn't as animated as Mr. Wilson, but he was just as personable and polished, walking out to a standing ovation in a crisp silk suit and launching into his bottomless catalog of hits with "For The Cool In You," "Every Time I Close My Eyes" and "Never Keeping Secrets," all of which were accompanied by loudly enthusiastic sing-a-longs. His impassioned delivery, in fact, sent him into a soul-clapping, pin-wheeling-across-the-stage frenzy, which left him gasping for breath and admitting "I'm tired as hell y'all---it's ‘Babyface,'not 'Babybody,' things change!" Before launching into a medley of some of his greatest hits ("End of the Road," "Don't Be Cruel," "Tender Roni," "My My My" and "Two Occasions," etc.), he told a funny story of how he became a songwriter, thanks to a grade-school crush and after his first national tour with The Deele, Luther Vandross and  "The King of the Light-Skinned Negroes," El DeBarge. After making the night of some shocked audience members by leaving the stage to serenade them in their seats, he ended with an extended encore of "Whip Appeal," every verse met loudly and word-for-word.

Dallas native N'Dambi brought equal parts sass and soul to her opening set, regaling with older ("What's Wrong With U," "The Sunshine") and newer favorites, including an smokily extended treatment of "Ooo Baby" before launching into the salty kiss-off, "Can't Hardly Wait." After confessing that her she couldn't wait to dive into some Texas barbeque ("Eating is all I can think about when I come home to Dallas y'all"), N'Dambi revealed that the words to "Wait" came as she was driving along in Oak Cliff, proving that good Southern cooking and hospitality aren't the only great homegrown pleasures unique to the Lone Star State.

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