It’s New Year’s Eve this December 31, 2019 evening and the celebration is already underway at the Etess Arena inside Atlantic City, NJ’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Tonight’s rockin’ event provided by Atlantic City’s premiere entertainment destination is an evening of party music presented by ’70s favorites Kool & the Gang and KC and the Sunshine Band.
A live DJ spins disco music for the spirited crowd which is all decked out in holiday attire. Ladies wear “Happy New Year” crowns and glittering beads, and men are sporting high hats. Many partygoers display neon necklaces, and some are even holding flashing neon wands. A large silver disco ball hangs in the center of the arena ready to ring in the new decade.
The DJ happily announces, “Get ready to enjoy the show!” and people stand and dance to the rhythm of the Village People’s “YMCA” as KC and the Sunshine Band — a 15-piece ensemble featuring David Siegel and Johnathan “J Whitty” Whittaker on keyboards, Jeffery Reeves on guitar, Steve Lashley on bass, David Simmons on drums, Fermin Goytisolo on percussion, John Reid and Cisco Dimas on trumpets, Felipe LaMoglia on saxophone, Miles Fielder on trombone, Maria De Crescenzo and Anika Ellis on back-up vocals, along with dancers Kennetha Morris and Janell Burgess — take the stage.
The dancers escort band leader Harry “KC” Wayne Casey out to the center of the stage as Felipe LaMoglia solos on sax, the horns wail, and “J Whitty” solos on keyboard on the group’s 1975 Top 40 hit, “Boogie Shoes.” KC and the crowd sing, “I want to put on/My my my my my/Boogie Shoes,” before David Siegel plays a honky tonk piano solo and KC says “Come on Atlantic City! Are you ready to shake some booty in 2020?”
Moving to the keyboard, KC plays the intro to his 1976 #1 hit, ““(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty.” The audience dances and sings along on the happy “Shake shake shake/Shake shake shake/Shake your booty” lyric which is punctuated by tight horns as the dancers shake their booties to the infectious beat while lights flash and strobe.
Taking a minute to greet the crowd, KC asks, “Are you ready for this? Next month, I’ll be 69 years old,” before joking, “Take a good look — this is what Justin Timberlake will look like in 30 years!”
After wishing the crowd a “happy and prosperous New Year,” KC and Co. launch into the group’s 1979 chart-topper, “Please Don’t Go.” Janell Burgess opens the number doing a ballet dance as KC tells her, “Take my hand and come with me.” Standing center stage singing this heartfelt soft rock ballad, KC holds out a long note out for a dramatic ending to enthusiastic cheers and applause.
Responding, “Are you ready to boogie with the Boogie Man? Let’s go back to 1977!” the audience joins in singing the chorus of another KC and the Sunshine Band chart-topper, “I’m Your Boogie Man.” As the dancers move about the stage in fringed costumes, audience members dance at their seats while happily singing, “I’m your boogie man/I’m your boogie man/Turn me on,” to the disco beat.
The arena is alive with the energy from the band and the crowd. Lights flash onstage and from the crowd’s necklaces and light wands as KC dances center stage on the song’s instrumental break before the audience echo-sings with him, “Yeah/I feel good!”
Keeping the disco beat going strong, the group segues directly into their 1977 Top 5 hit, “Keep It Comin’ Love.” The party really gets heated as the audience sings along on the catchy “Keep it comin’ love/Keep it comin’ love/Don’t stop it now/Don’t stop it no” chorus while dancing to the groove.
Lights strobe as KC comes out from behind his keyboard dancing and clapping. The horns wail as the dancers — now dressed as cheerleaders — perform high kicks for the packed house. Jeffrey Reeves wails a high electric guitar solo on this extended dance number which segues directly into another disco tune, “I Like to Do It.”
The Etess Arena becomes one gigantic dance party when the crowd recognizes the horn intro to the band’s 1983 Top 20 hit, “Give It Up.” Everyone dances and sings along on the “Na-na, Na-na-na, Na-na-na-na-na-na/Baby give it up” refrain before the group segues into The Commodores’ “Brick House” and Michael Jackson’s “Shake Your Body.” KC dances and sings lead with his backup singers and dancers and the audience energetically sways back and forth in sync with the performers as fog billows across the stage.
The crowd whistles, hoots, and hollers as KC and the band leave the stage to spotlight drummer David Simmons who solos under flashing lights. Twirling his sticks to cheers, Simmons’ drums sound like a powerful locomotive and his motions increase in speed and intensity as he plays around his set hitting drums and cymbals while keeping time with his bass drum. Egging on the crowd to respond to his drumming energizes his performance even more as Simmons’ first-rate playing brings the entire Hard Rock crowd to thunderous applause.
The band returns and KC says, “Show your love!” The crowd responds with cheers, and Jeffrey Reeves plays a one-handed guitar solo on Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” He’s followed by a Steve Lashley slap funk bass solo and the horn section playing downstage to Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.”
The dancers return to perform acrobatics while KC says “Everybody get up!” and the crowd stands and dances on the group’s 1976 #1 hit, “That’s The Way (I Like It).” Singing, “That’s the way/Uh-huh uh-huh/I like it,” the party atmosphere continues as KC rocks on the keyboard and the dancers twirl around him to the rhythmic sound. As the music pulsates, the Etess Arena disco ball glitters and turns slowly to the groove as it’s illuminated in a rainbow of colors. The crowd happily takes the lead singing “That’s the way, I like it” and KC backs them up singing “Uh-huh uh-huh!”
“Put your hands up!” exclaims KC, and the audience claps with their hands over their heads on the group’s final number — their 1975 #1 smash, “Get Down Tonight.” The crowd joins in singing on the “Do a little dance/Make a little love” chorus. Responding to the groove coming from the stage and creating a moving mass of energy, the party in Atlantic City truly “gets down tonight” as the revelers prepare themselves to ring in a new year and a new decade.
KC and all of the Sunshine Band members take well-deserved bows for the cheering crowd. Then, one by one, the performers circle the stage as they exit, leaving drummer David Simmons and percussionist Fermin Goytisolo to keep the rhythm percolating all the way to the end of the song.
During a short intermission, the Hard Rock DJ keeps the crowd entertained as the crew sets the stage for the evening’s next act. Creating a club atmosphere filled with classic disco tunes, the DJ keeps the audience dancing and singing along to hits from Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire, and more, while we take a moment to chat with several concertgoers who share their thoughts on KC and the Sunshine Band’s performance this evening.
Comments Vince from Marlton, “We’re big fans of KC and the Sunshine Band. The musicians are awesome, and KC is still sounding great,” before concluding, “All in all, it was good fun!”
Kelly from Newark, DE, agrees adding, “KC was fantastic — he sang really well — and we couldn’t help but dance the entire time.”
Susan from Newark, DE remarks, “We come to Hard Rock a lot. We saw Keith Urban, Earth Wind and Fire, Hall and Oats, and now KC and the Sunshine Band here,” before noting, “We’re people who like to dance, and you just can’t sit down with this kind of music.”
Lastly, we chat with Janie from Martin, PA who recalls, “As a ’70s girl, I think it’s great that KC is still doing it at age 69. Back in the ’70s I had no idea that his songs would last this long, but people still love his music.”
With regard to KC and the Sunshine Band’s performance this evening, asserts Janie, “It was phenomenal — and the drummer was amazing!” before adding, “And I loved seeing it here at Hard Rock. I love this venue. We’ve seen acts like Hall and Oats and Lionel Richie here — the sound is always great — so we’ll definitely be coming back.”
The lights dim and the DJ introduces Kool & the Gang as the band members — Robert “Kool” Bell on bass, Ronald Bell on tenor sax, George Brown on keyboards and percussion, Dennis Thomas on alto sax, Michael Ray on trumpet, Jermaine Bryson on trombone, Shelley Paul on tenor sax, Curtis “Fitz” Williams on keyboards, Amir Bayyan on guitar, Tim Horton on drums, Shawn McQuiller on vocals and guitar, and Walt Anderson on vocals — take their places on the stage.
Sporting a bright red jacket, singer Walt Anderson announces, “Atlantic City, make some noise!” before taking the lead on Kool & the Gang’s R&B rocker, “Tonight.” Singing, “Tonight, ooh/This is the night you’ll see the light,” the band sets the stage for the approaching end-of-the-year countdown on this funky and upbeat number prior to segueing into the group’s 1984 Top 10 hit, “Fresh.”
The crowd sings along on the well-known “She’s fresh and exciting/She’s so exciting to me” refrain before Shawn McQuiller, wearing white, takes a turn in the spotlight singing lead on the group’s 1980 Top 5 hit, “Too Hot.” Lights flash as the tight horn section rhythmically punctuates the arrangement and the crowd sings along on the “It’s too hot (too hot)/Too hot lady” chorus. Ronald Bell recreates his tenor sax solo from the band’s original recording before the group slows down on the coda and McQuiller vocally ad libs.
Asking, “Are you ready to bring in the new year?” McQuiller introduces the audience to the group’s keyboard/percussionist and original drummer, George Brown, in addition to the band’s leader, bassist Robert “Kool” Bell, who reminds the crowd that this is the group’s “51st year of touring.”
Sending one out to “all the ladies tonight,” Kool & the Gang performs “Joanna,” and the crowd happily joins in dancing and singing on the “Joanna, I love you/You’re the one, the one for me” refrain of this 1983 R&B/pop hit.
After an instrumental number which features the group’s five-piece horn section, McQuiller handles the lead on “Funky Stuff.” Singing, “Par..ley/Par..ley/Can’t get enough of that funky stuff,” McQuiller gets down and funky as he dances with the instrumentalists while they vigorously strut and play.
Robert “Kool” Bell’s bass booms as the band segues into the 1973 Top 10 hit, “Jungle Boogie.” Horns blare as members of the crowd eagerly put their hands up in the air. Michael Ray plays an energy-filled trumpet solo which is so high it’s off the horn and audience members happily join in singing the “Get down/Get down” refrain along with the musicians.
The party continues with the group’s 1974 Top 10 hit, “Hollywood Swingin’” On this catchy number, audience members can’t help but stand, dance, and sing along on the song’s infectious, “Hey hey hey/Whatcha got to say?” lyric. As McQuiller handles the lead, red lights flash and the group morphs into Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” before Jermaine Bryson plays a low and growling trombone solo and band members rhythmically jump to the beat.
Announcing, “This is going out to all the ladies tonight,” Kool & the Gang rips into their 1980 Top 10 hit, “Ladies Night.” Ladies dance at their seats as McQuiller sings, “Oh yes it’s ladies night/And the feeling’s right/Oh yes it’s ladies night/Oh what a night.” Robert “Kool” Bell plucks out the melody on his bass as the horns play tight blips and turns before the crowd joins in singing the well-known “This is your night tonight/Everything’s gonna be alright” coda.
Launching into the band’s 1982 Top 10 number, “Get Down On It,” the center disco ball spins, covering the Etess Arena in spiraling circles of light that entice the crowd to join in the countdown to 2020. As a pair of large screens show the New Year’s Eve ball dropping in Times Square, the crowd counts down with the group, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” at which point confetti covers the audience and balloons fall from high above as a solo organ plays “Auld Lang Syne.”
After wishing the crowd a joyful “Happy New Year!” Walt Anderson handles the lead on Kool & the Gang’s 1980 #1 hit, “Celebration.” Soon, Shawn McQuiller takes over as everyone parties, dances, and sings, “We’re gonna have a good time tonight/Let’s celebrate/It’s all right” on the band’s ultimate party song.
“We hope you had a good time tonight!” announces Kool & the Gang, adding, “Happy New Year and God bless you!” before the band members take a bow, shake hands with audience members, and wave goodbye while the happy crowd exits dancing to the music of the DJ.
As the revelers filter out of the arena, we chat with several music lovers in the house who share their opinions of tonight’s New Year’s Eve performance.
Exclaims Patty from Brick. “Tonight’s show was just awesome! I never saw KC and the Sunshine Band or Kool & the Gang and they were both great! The whole energy of the evening was just perfect for my generation.”
Continuing, “I’d never been to Atlantic City for New Year’s Eve before, and now I want to do it again,” Patty explains, “The Hard Rock is a great venue where every seat is good and where they always put on excellent shows.”
Saundra from Maryland agrees adding, “The sound is awesome, there’s not a bad seat in the house, and people here are so friendly,” before concluding, “and getting to sing ‘Celebration’ with Kool & the Gang to ring in the new year was just perfect!”
Whereas Sharon from Teaneck asserts, “Tonight was so much fun!” Chris from Teaneck remarks, “The show was pleasingly pleasant, and the venue is great!”
Lastly, we chat with Juanita from Englewood who declares, “The show was just awesome!” before concluding, “Enjoying the music of Kool & the Gang and KC and the Sunshine Band was not only the perfect way to end 2019, but an incredible way to begin 2020!”
To learn more about Kool & the Gang, please go to koolandthegang.com. To find out more about KC and the Sunshine Band, please click on heykcsb.com. For information on upcoming performances at Atlantic City, NJ’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino — including Sugar Ray on February 7, Adam Sandler on March 14, and Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell: The Musical from March 27-April 5 — please go to hardrockhotels.com.
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