Concert Review: Mint Condition at Dallas House of Blues

Mint Condition at the Dallas House of Blues
April 5, 2012
By Melody Charles

Mint Condition at the Dallas House of Blues
April 5, 2012
By Melody Charles

It wasn’t Easter or even Good Friday yet, but that didn’t keep one of the baddest bands in the land, Mint Condition, from whipping fans into a Baptist-revival-worthy fervor and treating them to a spirited and spectacular performance at Dallas’ House of Blues on Thursday night.

There was no mention of the impending holidays, but the parallels that could be drawn from the season of renewal and the band’s professional invigoration couldn’t be denied, given that just after celebrating twenty years together, the St. Paul, MN-based quintet raised their visibility profile with nightly appearances on TV One’s 2011 series “Way Black When” as the house band, following that accomplishment with their first pair of Grammy nominations at the top of 2012 (with the smash hit Kelly Price collaboration, “Not My Daddy”). But the fans that had been devoted to MC since the 1990s were the ones who showed up and showed out that night, nodding along to the opening numbers from the latest CD, 7 (“Can’t Get Away,” “I Want It”) and jumping to their feet to sway and sing along with instantly recognizable hits like “U Send Me Swingin’” and “So Fine,” prefaced with a declaration from lead vocalist Stokley Williams that “this is for you ladies!”

The five-man collective, assisted in their set with drummer extraordinaire Brandon Commodore, displayed their usual polish and precision as performers: bassist Rick Kinchen thanked the crowd for “all of the love you’ve shown us over the years” before plunging into “Why Do We Try,” which was padded with extra layers of wah-wah guitar licks courtesy of Homer O’Dell and wrapped up with a dueling drum-kit face-off by Mr. Commodore and Mr. Williams. Admirers of ”Meant To Be Mint” and "Life's Aquarium"  flew into an ecstatic orbit soon after, thanks to the band’s inclusion of verses from “Forever In Your Eyes” and “If You Love Me,” sweet and celestial grooves that they rarely, if ever, play live. “Not My Daddy” could’ve used the inclusion of its co-writer and co-performer, Kelly Price, but Mint Condition skillfully re-configured the words around her absence (“I’m not your daddy I’m your man, you’re not my mama you’re my girl”) and earned a universal chorus of cheers and back-up vocals from listeners as a reward.

The hour and a half-long set featured more than a succession of fan favorites and soul-steeped singles about the trials and triumphs of life and relationships (“Whoa,”  “Look Whatchu’ Done For Me,” “Sometimes,” “What You Bring To the Party”): it displayed the strength of their bond, synergy between them as a unit and the affection they hold for their fans. Lawrence El and Jeff Allen were deft and demonstrative players, plying the songs with key strokes and sax solos that veered traditional versions into the range of stratospheric and spellbinding, and the band’s interwoven verses from other genres and formats (Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” slid into “Caught My Eye,” which rolled into “Atomic Dog” before melting into “Love & Happiness”) were both organic and effortless. The band’s most unique asset, beyond self-contained instrumentation and lyrical content, is Mr. Williams, due to his possessing a feline sense of grace, a sliding scale vocal range and smoldering sex appeal that earns respect from male fans while reducing their women to mush.

That potency was evidenced by the way many lined up to meet the band even as they performed the expected encore of “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes),” a sprawl of admirers that waited well past midnight to get a personal helping of Mint.

 

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