The Temptations and The Four Tops LIVE! at NJPAC
As we exit the parking lot and walk across Newark’s Sarah Vaughn Way towards the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ this gorgeous October 6, 2017 evening, we join a throng of Motown fans of all ages, all here for a concert by two legendary Motown groups — The Temptations and The Four Tops!
Making our way inside the glittering NJPAC lobby, we come upon four friends who are chatting with one another before the show.
In talking with them about tonight’s double bill, one of the women — Alice from Caldwell — smiles and jokingly says of the groups, “They were popular long before we were born!” before finally revealing that in actuality, she and her friends have been devoted fans of The Temptations and Four Tops for decades.
Her colleague, Eleanor from Caldwell, agrees, supporting her friend by exclaiming, “I’m just crazy about the Temps and Four Tops!”
We soon learn that, as a result of the love she has for these artists from her youth, Eleanor has treated her lifelong friends to tonight’s concert.
Rounding out the quartet are Mary Ann and Maryanne — both from Jersey City.
Whereas Mary Ann tells us the women are truly enjoying their “ladies night out together,” Maryanne concludes by stating, “We love all the music of the Motown era, which is why we are so excited about seeing and hearing both of these Motown groups tonight here at NJPAC.”
As we take our seats inside the beautiful NJPAC auditorium, we meet Sandy from Fairfield who tells us that she has been a fan of both The Temptations and The Four Tops since the 1960s. Revealing, “Of course, I had their records, but this is the first time I’m seeing them live,” Sandy goes on to note, “I could speak in total superlatives about both of these groups,” before adding, “I’m here tonight to celebrate! I plan to have fabulous fun bopping to their great potpourri of music. It’s going to be the most upbeat high!”
The lights dim and an announcement is made that the group that is about to perform first has been designated by Billboard magazine as the “greatest R&B act of the last six decades” and even has a Broadway musical in development which will soon be coming to the Great White Way.
As a large band begins to play, the crowd goes wild as Otis Williams, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Larry Braggs, and Willie Greene, Jr. — The Temptations — take the stage!
Sporting red coats and performing their trademark Temps choreography, the group opens with a snappy rendition of their 1966 Top 40 hit, “Get Ready.”
Singing, “So fee fi fo fum/Look out baby ’cause here I come!” the quintet gets the audience nodding their heads and tapping their toes to the bouncy beat.
Moving on to three Temptations’ hits from 1964 — “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue),” “The Girl’s Alright By Me,” and “Trouble” — lights rain down on the Temps as they sing together in perfect five-part harmony.
Asking the audience, “How are you feeling this evening — are you having a good time?,” the group launches into a rousing rendition of their1986 R&B hit, “Lady Soul.”
The audience sings along, putting their hands together at the invitation of the quintet, clapping to the song’s infectious rhythm while the group sidesteps, shakes, and shimmies as they sing.
Announcing “Let’s get the party started y’all!” The Temptations pantomime as they sing and dance to their 1964 Top Ten hit, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” showing off all of their fancy moves on the breaks.
After declaring,“We’re gonna dance for you!” the entire crowd spontaneously gets up out of their seats, audience members dancing on every level — even those way up in the balconies — as they sing along on The Temptations’ 1966 Top 20 hit, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”
One of the highlight performances of the evening is the Temps’ electrifying rendition of their 1970 Top 5 record, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today),” the vocalists trading off singing lead as the “band plays on” to the infectious beat.
With a synthesizer simulating a thunderstorm on 1967’s “I Wish It Would Rain,” the audience sways back and forth as the group vocalizes, and the crowd joyfully joins in right from the start on the group’s easy-going 1971 #1 smash, “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).”
A wah-wah guitar effect is featured on the quintet’s rendition of their 1973 #1 hit, “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.” Stepping and slapping their feet as they sing, even The Temptations’ musical director joins in on the dancing as he conducts the orchestra holding a single drum stick in one hand and a tambourine in the other!
After introducing the various members of their back-up band, The Temptations introduce the crowd to each of the current vocalists — Larry Braggs, Terry Weeks, Willy Greene Jr., and Ron Tyson —before proudly introducing the group’s only original member, Otis Williams, who takes a bow to heartfelt audience applause.
Ladies in the house scream as the men perform the group’s 1984 hit, “Treat Her Like a Lady.” As they sing, The Temps dance, touch the ground, bump, and move like youngsters, delighting the crowd with their style and talent.
Showing off their individual and collective vocal ranges on a cover version of McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” the NJPAC auditorium looks more like a party room than a concert hall with lights flashing, audience members smiling, and everyone singing and dancing.
Moving on to a number some call The Temptations’ “National Anthem,” the vocalists perform their 1965 chart-topper, “My Girl.”
As horns wail on this Motown classic, couples throughout the venue can be seen dancing to their “special song.”
Dazzling the crowd with their dynamic five part-harmony on their final song for the evening — their 1966 Top Ten hit, “(I Know) I’m Losing You” — the audience rises to its feet!
After they sing, the performers bow and shake hands with members of the packed house all to the sound of excited cheers, whistles, and applause!
During a brief intermission, we get a chance to chat with two young adults seated near us in the audience.
Meghan, an actress from New York City, tells us, “My dad was a fan, so I grew up with The Temptations. I played soccer, and we would listen to their songs in the car,” before adding, “This is my first time seeing them live — it’s just incredible getting to see them in person. In fact, I just texted my family to let them know that I am actually here!”
Although Anthony, also an actor from New York, acknowledges, “I didn’t even know The Temptations were still performing,” once he learned they would be at NJPAC tonight, he wanted to attend, explaining, “I love classic Motown music,” before making it a point to tell us, “I especially loved the group’s performance of ‘My Girl.’”
We also chat with Nelson from the Bronx, who tells us he still listens to The Temptations’ music on vinyl!
States Nelson, “The Temptations have continued the wonderful Motown tradition of great music and wonderfully-staged choreography,” acknowledging, “It will, hopefully, have an impact on generations to come!”
Lights flash as the music starts up again and we hear the sound of luscious four-part vocal harmony coming from off-stage.
Dedicating their performance tonight to the three members of the group who “are no longer with us,” the current members of The Four Tops take center stage with the entire crowd singing along right from the start on the group’s 1964 million-seller, “Baby I Need Your Loving.”
Swaying, singing, and joking with the audience, original Tops’ member Abdul “Duke” Fakir greets the crowd and introduces the audience to the current members of the group — Harold “Spike” Bonhart, Ronnie McNeir, and Roquel Payton.
Offering us some real “Motown magic,” the men break into a soulful rendition of The Four Tops’ 1967 Top 5 Billboard hit, “Bernadette.”
Their voices pleading “Bernadette, keep on loving me/Bernadette, keep on needing me,” The Tops clap and dance as they sing to flashing green and red lights.
Moving on to a rollicking rendition of their 1965 Top Five tune, “It’s the Same Old Song,” the men shake it as they dance.
Joking, “I can’t wait for this part because I can sit down,” Fakir, 81, leads the group in a performance of the quartet’s first recorded ballad — their 1965 Top 40 hit, “Ask the Lonely.”
Following huge applause, the Tops perform a spirited gospel-rock version of 1966’s “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over),” the audience clapping along to a bari sax solo as members of the group dance and shimmy on stage.
Changing the pace, the quartet performs a lively arrangement of Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” scat-singing the back ups with lyrics like “shoo-du-wah” and “bop-bop,” and proving they can harmonize with anyone!
After reminiscing about all three of his original Four Tops colleagues — Lawrence Payton, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, and the great Levi Stubbs — Fakir introduces the group’s two Four Tops “tribute numbers” for the evening.
First, Ronnie McNeir is featured singing Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” — a tune which was co-written by original Tops member Renaldo “Obie” Benson.
Next, Fakir performs a poignant solo version of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” which includes such homespun lyrics as, “We lived a life that’s full/We traveled each and every byway/But it took the grace of God/To turn things our way.”
The crowd loves it, cheering Fakir on as he sings!
Audience members get up out of their seats to party on The Four Tops’ 1981 Top 20 hit, “When She Was My Girl,” the crowd clapping and moving to the song’s disco-style arrangement.
Next, the group shows off their four-part harmony skills on their 1973 Top 5 tune, “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got.” They follow that up with a dynamic rendition of one of the Tops’ signature songs — their #1 smash from 1966, “Reach Out I’ll Be There.”
As the faces of audience members light up with smiles, the group keeps the party rollin’ with a rockin’ performance of their 1966 Top 10 hit, “Standing in the Shadows of Love.”
Then, launching into one of the best-known Motown songs of all time, The Tops perform a high-energy version of the group’s 1965 chart-topper, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).”
The entire crowd is on its feet dancing and singing as the Tops conclude by exclaiming, “New Jersey! New York! We love you!”
The lights come up, and as we make our way out of the NJPAC auditorium, we spot a young woman who had been seated in the row in front of us — an obvious Motown music lover who was smiling, singing, and dancing the entire show.
Informing us that her name is Kamae and that she comes from Newark, Kamae admit, “I’ve got all of The Temptations and Four Tops CDs.”
Adding, “I know all this music from my mom,” Kamae jokes, “I came out of the womb listening to this music!”
Concluding by confessing, “I love this music!” Kamae smiles and says, “It just kept me dancing the whole night!”
For more information on The Temptations, please go temptationsofficial.com. To learn more about The Four Tops, please go to facebook.com/FourTops. For info on upcoming concerts at NJPAC — including The Manhattan Transfer on November 4 and Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band on November 16 — please click on njpac.org.