Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.

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Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.

Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, August 17, 2017

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.

The Bay Area has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with exhibits at the DeYoung Museum, the touring production of A Night with Janis, and psychedelic projections to light up the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Feinstein’s at the Nikko is doing its part with a recent show by The Monkees singer Micky Dolenz, and now presents seven-time Grammy Award-winning duo Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., singers for the world-renowned vocal group the 5th Dimension. The husband and wife duo has been performing for over 45 years and the synergy between these two is magic, making for an unforgettable evening of nostalgia.

From their first Grammy winner “Up, Up and Away” (1968), the duo was part of one of the most successful pop groups of the era. They’ve earned 15 gold and three platinum records, As a duo, they are still going strong. Their set featured the groups big hits: “Wedding Bell Blues,” “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All,” and “One Less Bell to Answer,” with their trademark harmonies showcasing Marilyn’s sultry alto and Davis’ high tenor. A lovely four-part harmony included longtime musical director/arranger/pianist Darryl Austin and guitarist Major Black on the Duke Ellington/Barney Bigard “Mood Indigo.” Derrick Murdock (bass) and Bo Lamar (drums) laid down a funky rhythm for the duo to ride.

The duo traded solos: Marilyn on “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein) and “One Less Bell…,” while Billy was featured on the bluesy “I’m Just a Lucky So and So” (Duke Ellington/Mack David) and a smoking cover of “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In” (Denise LaSalle). Of course, the perfect Summer of Love finale was their smash hit “Aquarius”/“Let the Sunshine In” from the rock musical Hair, which peaked at #1 and earned two Grammys (Record of the Year; Best Pop Performance). Their encore of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” was a loving tribute to their longevity and a beautiful statement of their love and commitment.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.