How Shalamar gave Amsterdam a night to remember

In the 1980s, the soul and disco group Shalamar scored many hits. Forty years in, the group was set to kick off their anniversary tour at the Melkweg in Amsterdam. Was Shalamar just a fond memory from the ’80s or could the band still put on a memorable show? With two singers over retirement age, there was a risk of becoming merely nostalgic. However, that was not the case for Shalamar, who showcased their best side on Thursday evening in a sold-out venue.

The evening began with the opening act by Lauraine McIntosh, lead singer of The Cool Notes and backing vocalist for Jamiroquai. Her lively character filled the venue and the large audience gradually moved along with the music. “Yes! Now I see you all enjoying yourselves,” the singer called out with a big smile. With her latest song ‘Can I’ and then Gwen McCrae’s ‘Keep The Fire Burning’ filling the room, the audience started dancing. After Lauraine thanked the people in attendance for their loving attention, the DJ took the venue on a journey through the ’80s. In quick succession, hits like ‘Never Too Much,’ ‘And The Beat Goes On,’ and many other sing-alongs played. The nostalgia worked its magic, as the crowd was dancing within fifteen minutes. The perfect moment for main act Shalamar.

From the first minute, it was clear that Shalamar took their anniversary seriously. After a brief intro, all the band members appeared on stage and the party took off. It immediately became clear that dancing was mandatory. While the band played ‘Right In The Socket,’ the bassist took his role as singer Jeffrey Daniel called for a ‘dance break’ – prompting the audience to dance along with the singers. Their joy radiated to the audience, and from that moment on the party felt complete. While Shalamar’s earlier records cherished a disco sound, the bassist and keyboardist effortlessly added funk influences to the live versions. This added an extra layer that benefits their music in 2024.

Lead singer Howard Hewett then took a moment to connect with the ladies in the audience, taking a seat at the front of the stage on a speaker. “Ladies, we did love songs back in the day. Can I do a few for you?” he asked affectionately. Howard started with the heartfelt ‘I Just Stopped By Because I Had To,’ followed by the sweet ‘Somewhere There’s A Love.’ The crowd swooned – couples everywhere embraced each other closely. Many of the attendees likely experienced their teenage love during the height of Shalamar’s career, and Howard knew how to tap into that perfectly. Although it is fair to admit his vocals no longer reach the range they did in 1982, the intensity remained undiminished.

The band then swiftly took us through their career. During ‘Take That To The Bank,’ Shalamarbucks – personalized fake dollar bills – were thrown into the audience, and for ‘The Second Time Around,’ Jeffrey recounted the story of how Howard initially didn’t feel like joining the band. Thankfully, he did later on. During ‘I Can Make You Feel Good,’ singer Carolyn Griffin suddenly switched her lyrics to “He’s The Greatest Dancer,” a mega-hit by sister band Sister Sledge. This was a tribute to fellow singer Jeffrey, who started out as a dancer on Soul Train. Enthusiastically, Jeffrey demonstrated why he was the man who taught Michael Jackson the Moonwalk. Effortlessly, he spun and danced across the stage as if it were 1982, while receiving enormous appreciation from the audience. After all, Shalamar was often as famous for their dancers as they were for their songs.

This current lineup has been playing together for 20 years and it shows in their cohesion. The three performers are attuned to each other with many dance moves, tricks, and jokes. A bit of emotion struck the band when the warm response visibly moved singer Carolyn from the audience. “You guys are making me so emotional. Please give yourselves a round of applause because the show is only as good as you and us!” She then sang a beautiful acapella ballad version of her lyrics to ‘A Night To Remember,’ delivering the audience goosebumps instantly.. After a big round of applause, Jeffrey and Howard returned to the stage, and the song the whole audience had been waiting for began. As an encore, Shalamar even shook hands and personally thanked the audience at the front. Thus, for many attendees this Thursday became a night to remember forever.

Photos (c) Tyron Rosheuvel

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