LYNN — As the wave of 1960s nostalgia crested about 10 years ago, the “Seventies Preservation Society” came into existence.
You saw it advertised on commercials, you saw the same kind of compilation albums as there were during the sixties retro era, and there’s even a website devoted to it.
And while sixties devotees still pack venues for the “Happy Together” tour with the Turtles, as well as other revival acts, they all had nothing on the Tavares/New Stylistics concert that filled City Hall Saturday night in a local meeting of the “Seventies Preservation Society.”
It was a lively crowd indeed, and a lot of them walked in with their boogie shoes on, and with outfits to match. Best outfit of the night was a guy who walked into the balcony section resplendent in white — counterpointed with bright, red shoes. This crowd came to dance — and dance they did.
There were actually three acts Saturday. The first one, Vinyl Groove, a five-member group using recorded music as backing, sang a collection of popular disco hits from the height of the era, sounding remarkably similar to the groups that made the tunes famous, such as Odyssey on “Native New Yorker.” It was a nice warmup for what was to come, but at the same time, the canned music was a turnoff. It wasn’t mixed well, and the percussion was almost oppressive (that ever-pulsating bass drum-fueled feature of disco was always a bit annoying to me anyway).
The “New Stylistics” (as opposed to simply “The Stylistics,” who still exist) feature original member Russell Thompkins Jr., who, at 67, still has the sweet pipes. He and his two cohorts — Jonathan Buckson and Raymond Johnson — came out in blazing red dinner jackets. And while Thompkins serenaded the near sold-out audience at the auditorium with the sweet sounds of “Betcha By Golly Wow” and “You Are My Everything,” Johnson and Buckson, both former members of the original band, performed the smooth dance steps reminiscent of The Temptations.
However, it was Buckson who took over the low, mellow beginning of “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” a wonderful song that transcends eras and genres (ditto “Betcha By Golly Wow, by the way).
The “New Stylistics” came backed with a horn section (and I’m a sucker for horns!!), two keyboards, drums and a lead and bass guitarist, and the band was as tight as could be. The whole package was thoroughly enjoyable.
The Providence, R.I.-based Tavares, who, like Thompkins and Co., sang for just over an hour, were electric. Their band was a bit more stripped down — synthesizers covered all the horn parts — and the four remaining brothers (out of the original five) put on a show worthy of how they must have sounded in their prime (even though Brother Ralph was struggling through, feeling “under the weather”).
Despite Ralph not feeling up to par, Tavares gave it all they had — and it was more than enough. And they proved — as Thompkins proved — that there’s more to them than just a few disco hits (though “More than a Woman” and “It Only Takes a Minute Girl” were certainly front and center).
Each brother had his moment. And like a lot of groups you see, once Tavares started rattling off the songs, you realized you didn’t know they’d done a lot of them. They also did a very nice cover of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone,” which was performed well here.
The finale was a lot of fun. They invited members of the previous two bands onstage for a rousing version of “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” to send the crowd home in a very festive mood.