WAR – Live at Variety Playhouse

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WAR, who did not sing the Vietnam protest song that shares the same name (Edwin Starr did), was a 70’s rock, funk, jazz, Latin and everything else band that sold over 50 million records.  “They” returned to Atlanta Saturday, and I was overdue for a concert.  With my likewise bored son in tow, off we went to Atlanta’s greatest concert venue.  I’ve never bought any of their songs and couldn’t name any off the top of my head, but there’s some history there.  And, they were a good band.  Why not?

And there were many firsts.  It was my first time to see WAR.  It was the first time I’ve seen people buy popcorn and sliced pizza before a concert at Variety.  It was the first show I’ve been to that Variety stopped selling many of the better craft beers brands.  It was the first time where audience members brought their own tambourines.  It was the first concert where the band did not have a table full of T-shirts and other wares for sale.  It was the first concert where I was significantly in a racial minority.  And, it was my first concert with a DJ as the warm up act.  But not for the first time, it was a great show.  Live music is just great.

Somehow connected with a local R&B station that helped sponsor the show, the DJ played snippets of vintage soul and R&B songs most of which I had never heard.  I’m not sure if it was his repeated referrals to “Old School” (the songs or the way people danced?), but the old bones in the crowd got moving just fine.

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WAR has one original remaining member, Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan.  There’s some legal history about naming rights, and several other members tour as the Lowrider Band.  Going back to 1968, it’s good that they’re around; it’s just too bad that aren’t playing together, I suppose.  It didn’t matter to my ears. It was quite apparent that Jordan was accustomed to being the Master of Ceremonies long before MC This and MC That appeared a decade later, and he was in fine spirits and voice.

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The reminders of just how old the music was, or he was, or the audience was, were frequent.  It is history in a sense, but he made light of it in an enjoyable way, with recollections of the, eh, state of mind he was in when many of the songs were written.

And a master of ceremonies can keep a good vibe coming.  Jordan roamed the stage, with humorous and interesting intros to the songs.  Most of the current members of the band have been with this version of the group for over a decade, and their experience playing together was heard.

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They covered many of the band’s hits, including “Galaxy,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”, “The Cisco Kid,” “All Day Music,” “Low Rider,” and an exceptional version of “The World is a Ghetto.”  The sax solos were generally terrific, as well as the tandem sax and harmonica melodies.  The rhythm section of drums, percussion, and bass kept the music hopping and the audience on their feet.  (Recognizing this potential, I opted for front row balcony.  Winning.)

With a general festive air to the flow of the show, the only minor hiccup was inviting several audience members to sing on stage.  The only major hiccup was what my son referred to as “the longest outro ever.”  The band introductions included a solo feature and a snippet of the members’ favorite songs.  There were some good moments, and they’re good musicians to be sure, but it was a stop and go annoyance.  A few more songs, whether theirs or covers, would have closed the night on a higher note.

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And what, no encore?

3 of 5 STARS

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