BY JOE DeSANTI | Go Venue Magazine
The 2019 Rhythm Blues & Arts Festival took over the Lewis & Clark Landing in downtown Omaha on September 1st, and it was quite a spectacle. The festival, which included pop-up shops, vendor booths, food trucks, and live music, started at 2pm and lasted until almost 12:30 am. There were over 5,000 festival goers in attendance to witness local and national artists. The show included Matt Hackett, TYI Hakeem, Enjoli & Timeless, and Charlotte Fletcher until 8:30 pm when the headliners took the stage.
First up was St. Louis native and nationally-known R&B artist, Wendell B. I’d liken his style of music to that of Luther Vandross and Barry White. His smooth vocals and laid back R&B sound was a hit with the crowd. Having most recently worked with Hollywood actor, producer, and director, Tyler Perry, Wendell B. took time to thank the crowd for coming out and reminded everyone about his latest single, “Beautiful”, which he later performed. He had good energy, and was a solid choice to kick off performances by the headliners for the show.
Next to the stage was Washington D.C. – based Go-Go Funk Band Experience Unlimited, or as I knew them, E.U. Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, one of the group’s lead singers and guitarists, led the group to the stage, much to the delight of all the fans in attendance. E.U. has enjoyed success around the world since forming in 1975, and are best-known for their 1988 smash hit, “Da Butt.” The band had an infectious energy and it was almost impossible not to move your feet and clap along. The group had two lead singers, two guitar players, a drummer, trumpets, horns, and hand drums, which all made for a memorable set. They played, “Buck Wild”, “Livin’ Large”, “Taste of Your Love”, and “Da Butt”, which was an obvious crowd favorite. Before seeing them live, I had only heard a few of their songs, but their upbeat music and catchy vocals made me an instant fan. E.U. was awesome!
After what almost 40 minutes of waiting for the next act, national recording artist, Michel’le, the crowd was surprised to learn that she had canceled, and would not be performing. Instead, the headliner for the evening was going to perform, but not before another delay.
After almost an hour of waiting, international recording artist, and headliner for the show, Keith Sweat took the stage. He opened his set with a fast-paced dance track, before slowing things down and performing his 1996 Billboard hit, “Nobody”. Then, in what can best be described as an awkward moment, Sweat told the crowd that he almost didn’t show up to perform due to the lack of organization of the festival and numerous time delays. He ended his rant by telling us, “I better get my money or s*** will hit the fan.” Then, as if nothing happened, he launched back into the music, and sang a few more songs before ending the set with his hit song, “Twisted”. I don’t know the specific count for sure, but Sweat sang five or six songs, and was only onstage for about a half hour.
All-in-all, the musical performances at the festival were great, but all of the artists were given such little time to perform, it made it difficult to emotionally invest. E.U. seemed to be given the longest amount of time to perform, and their set was worth every penny!
Go-Go Funk Band Experience Unlimited
Wendell B.All images © Joe DeSanti
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