The “Outstanding” Story Of Redemption At The Hollywood Bowl Charlie Wilson, The Consummate Showman, Fulfills Dream With Two Nights At The Venerable L.A. Venue
LOS ANGELES, CA- “Sex, drugs and rock and roll”. This is the lifestyle that has been glamorized for decades by the public as the way a rock star should live. But as exciting and thrilling as all that may sound, there’s the tragic reality that sex, drugs and rock and roll has led to the demise of too many of our favorite recording artists, many of whom way before their prime. The list of popular recording artists who have passed away from drugs, elicit or prescription, makes me sigh like there is no tomorrow.
That’s what made seeing Charlie Wilson headline two nights at the Hollywood Bowl so special.
Full disclosure, I have a connection to Charlie Wilson. When I graduated from college, I interned at an entertainment law office. One of the big projects I got to assist on was the paperwork for Bridging the Gap, Charlie Wilson’s sophomore album. This was a pretty big deal for me at the time as I was very familiar The Gap Band’s repertoire (Charlie Wilson’s original band). “You Dropped A Bomb On Me”, “Burn Rubber”, “Oops Upside Your Head”, “All Of My Love” … They had some serious bangers, and I was honored to be working on the solo album of a vocalist whose big booming voice always put a smile on my face and groove in my step. After I had passed the California bar exam, I got to assist on Charlie’s third studio album, Charlie, Last Name Wilson, and was particularly proud of the fact that that album cracked the top 10 of the Billboard 200.
But it wasn’t until I was working for another client that I learned about Charlie’s history; how he had battled, and overcame, an addition to cocaine and alcohol and was even homeless for a time, sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles, from 1993-1995. He’s been 23 years clean and sober, a fact that he made sure the audience knew, and that’s what heightened the joy I felt while watching him perform like a man half his age on the venerable Hollywood stage.
A lot of people know the music, but they may not know the man. When you know about the second chance that God gave him to share his musical talents, and you see Uncle Charlie’s (the name of endearment that his peers call him) huge grin, even from the nose-bleed section, light up the stage, you’re sharing with Charlie a moment that he most likely couldn’t even fathom a decade ago, accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl orchestra no less.
After a musical interlude consisting of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” at the start of his set, Charlie joked in disbelief, “I must be bad, cause I’m at the Hollywood Bowl.”
His voice was as smooth a butter, with enough power to blow out the speakers even without having to turn up the volume “up to 11”. It was a setlist that consisted of hits with the Gap Band and also from his solo repertoire, and was all that was needed to get the excited crowd off their bums and dancing to the music. Some people quip that Los Angeles can be too stuffy at times, but not tonight. Not with Uncle Charlie. Not when he’s kicking off the festivities with a “Party Train”. The groove was just undeniable.
With a cadre of nimble dancers moving succinctly to every beat, Uncle Charlie matched them all step for step as he belted, wooed and testified through his 15 song setlist. You could see it with every shoulder shimmy and booty twitch. Uncle Charlie was invigorated and could have easily passed for a thirty-something in the clubs (he’s sixty-five).
In a personal moment on stage, prior to singing his hit “I’m Blessed”, Charlie explained to the audience how special the night and experience was for him. He spoke in a humble tone that was certifiably grateful. He professed to the audience that there was a point in his life where things like this were simply unimaginable, and how it was love, determination and music that got him back his peace of mind to embark on the long journey that had led him finally to the Hollywood Bowl.
Charlie Wilson is currently on tour opening for Bruno Mars on the 24K Magic World Tour. Make sure you get to the show early because you don’t want to miss Uncle Charlie’s party train.