Cameo and Zapp funk it up at 5th annual “Party With a Purpose”

Zapp Photo by Andy Argyrakis
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For the 5th annual “It’s A Party With A Purpose,” concert promoter, production and management company Narski Music turned the musical tides towards the funky side of the dial in support of the Narski Family Foundation. In addition to assisting the worthwhile cause (which helps defray the costs of prescription medication for senior citizens and promote music education in local communities), fans who visited the Center For Performing Arts at Governors State University were treated to old school musical stylings of Cameo and Zapp, alongside comedy from Joe Torry (“Def Comedy Jam,” “House Party,” “Strictly Business”).

Considering the group doesn’t hit the road all that often, it was a true treat to see Cameo dust off its 40 year catalogue with freshened up arrangements of several 1970s and ’80s staples.

Cameo

Photo by Andy Argyrakis

Considering the group doesn’t hit the road all that often, it was a true treat to see Cameo dust off its 40 year catalogue with freshened up arrangements of several 1970s and ’80s staples. The New York-bred band danced and crooned their way through all the key cuts, including “She’s Strange,” “Single Life,” “Why Have I Lost You” and “Candy,” demonstrating its expansion from an early straight up funk incarnation to full-fledged pop stardom that’s most notably rubbed off on post-millennial hitmakers Outkast.

However more than any of the above material, an extended version of “Word Up!” best showcased the group’s mastery of the electro soul groove and all around staying power, supported by a regular stream of covers as diverse as the Spice Girls’ Mel B, hard rockers Korn and girl group Little Mix at the top of this year. Now all that’s needed is for Cameo to follow through on its commitment to new material for the first time since 2000, especially considering the band’s current vibrancy is comparable to its heralded past.

The same could be said about the reconstituted Zapp, another electronically-centered dance floor favorite originally championed by George Clinton, co-produced by Bootsy Collins and eventually a major inspiration for the G-funk sound of West Coast hip-hop. These days, the surviving musical members of the Troutman family spearhead the group with an equally talented supporting cast, though fans need not fear, Zapp’s vocoder-enhanced sound continues its potency regardless of the specific players.

Adorned by a barrage of flashy costumes that changed after practically every song, the Ohio act attacked all the oldies with fervor, from the talk-box throwdown of “I Heard It To The Grapevine” to the bedroom ballad “Computer Love” and even late great front man Roger’s sensual solo smash “I Want To Be Your Man.” Yet it was “More Bounce To The Ounce” (sampled by dozens, including The Notorious BIG, Ice Cube and Redman) that ruled the night, further reinforcing Zapp’s ongoing influence to this very day. Toss in some current event-themed hysterics from Torry, and the purpose-filled night more than lived up to its promise of a party.

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