Kool & The Gang at the Hollywood Bowl

Kool & The Gang are no strangers to the Hollywood Bowl having played there seven times since 2017 prior to this weekend’s two shows. Kool & The Gang most recently played at the Hollywood Bowl for two nights in 2021 for the July 4th Fireworks Spectacular. Kool & The Gang formed back in 1964 and in 1969 released their self-titled debut album. They have had a 2x Platinum Album, three Platinum, and five Gold Albums in the U.S. Kool & The Gang still includes the last two surviving founding members bassist Ronald ‘Kool’ Bell and drummer/percussionist George ‘Funky’ Brown. Original Alto Saxophonist Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas passed just a month and 3 days after the 4th of July show and original Tenor Saxophonist and Kool’s brother Ronald passed in 2020. In addition to Kool and Brown the lineup consists of trumpet player Michael Ray (since 1979), keyboardist/alto sax player Curtis ‘Fitz’ WIlliams (since 1982), vocalist Shawn McQuiller (since 1991), drummer/percussionist Timothy Horton (since 1998), and lead guitarist Amir Bayan (Kevin Bell) who joined in 2006 replacing original guitarist Claydes Charles Smith when he passed. 

Opening the show was none other than one of the greatest Disco groups of all, the Village People. The Village People have had 13 variations since their formation in 1977. From 2013-2017 the group still included two of the founding members Felipe Rose (Native American) and Alex Briley (GI/sailor) and Ray Simpson who replaced founder and lead singer Victor Willis as the cop and admiral just two years after the group formed. Willis would rejoin a year later as the cop and admiral and again in 2017 rejoined and a new lineup was assembled with Isaac Lopez (Native American), James Lee (GI), JJ Lipold (leather man), James Kwong (construction worker) and Nicholas Manelick (cowboy) joined in 2021. Willis created the Village People with French producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolom and also wrote or co-wrote their biggest hits. The debut Village People album only included Willis and studio musicians as well as the second album Macho Man which was the first show all the characters on the cover who would all be part of their third album Cruisin’ which included their biggest hit “Y.M.C.A.” The group’s first four albums went between Gold and Platinum in the U.S. and their smash hit “Y.M.C.A.” was added to the Library of Congress’s “National Recording Registry” in 2020. 

The Village People with a live band kicked off their 45-minute set with “Fire Island,” followed by “Macho Man”, and their first hit single “San Francisco (You’ve Got Me).” It was fitting that “In Hollywood (Everybody Is a Star) was included in the set as well and another big hit “Go West.” Willis changed into his admiral suit for “In the Navy.” The closer had to be “Y.M.C.A.” but before it was performed the audience was walked through how to form the letters properly then when it came to the chorus the whole audience was standing and forming the letters. The band includes original Village People drummer Russell Dabney. There was a 15-minute intermission before the next dance party would begin. 

It has been a big year for Kool & The Gang being close to their 60th anniversary, the release over their new album People Just Wanna Have Fun and the release of Brown’s memoir Too Hot: Kool & The Gang and Me. At 9 P.M. Kool & The Gang took the stage and performed a set of 13 songs starting with “Fresh.” “Joanna” was dedicated to all the women in the audience. Halfway through they performed “Jungle Boogie” a massive hit for the group followed by another big hit “Hollywood Swingin” which was used for the WWE Wrestlemania theme song this year at SoFi stadium. The set was closed out with three more major hits “Ladies’ Night,” “Get Down On It,” and “Celebration.” Kool & The Gang has released a total of 26 studio albums over 54 years. One went 2x Platinum, two were Platinum and Five were Gold.