Less than two years since selling out the United Center, Charlie Wilson came back to the house that Michael Jordan built with yet another new project, “In It To Win It” (RCA), continuing one of the most unexpected but deserving musical comebacks of this century. As shared in a video reel introduction, this son of a preacher who went on to international fame with The Gap Band actually wound up homeless following a battle with drugs and alcohol, but now more than 20 years sober (and also healed from prostate cancer), he’s back to topping the R&B charts.
Indeed, the younger generations owe Uncle Charlie a lot, though thankfully that reciprocation comes frequently on “I’m In It To Win It” thanks to collaborations with Pitbull, Snoop Dogg, Lalah Hathaway, Wiz Khalifa, T.I. and Robin Thicke.
Along with support from Fantasia and Johnny Gill, he drew another sizeable crowd, but outside of some key Gap Band cuts, the night had little to do with nostalgia. And even when Wilson, his colorfully-dressed eight-piece band, four frequently decorated dancers and a pair of background singers dipped into the past for “Party Train,” “Early In The Morning” and “Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me),” they sounded right in step with anything Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars is tackling these days.
In fact, Wilson proved that very point as the troupe donned light-up jackets and gym shoes to mash-up Mars and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” with a bit of The Gap Band’s “I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops!)” for a glove-snug match. Indeed, the younger generations owe Uncle Charlie a lot, though thankfully that reciprocation comes frequently on “I’m In It To Win It” thanks to collaborations with Pitbull, Snoop Dogg, Lalah Hathaway, Wiz Khalifa, T.I. and Robin Thicke.
Many current cuts were also featured, including the jovial “Good Time,” the gospel-infused “I’m Blessed” and the smooth ballad “Chills,” all of which complimented other solo standouts “There Goes My Baby” and “You Are.” Come “Charlie, Last Name Wilson,” the headliner coaxed most of the fellas on their feet to seduce their leading ladies, and later, told his personal faith testimony in greater detail following “Amazing God.”
In what turned out to be the finale, Wilson and company strutted to each side of the stage seeing what section could sing “Outstanding” the loudest, and though everyone appeared to be loving it, apparently they didn’t cheer loud enough to warrant an encore, leaving the massive “You Dropped A Bomb On Me” off the table. In spite of that inexplicable slight, Wilson otherwise came up a winner by pouring his absolute all into the joyful undertaking and for refusing to ever go down for the count in the first place.
Click here for more Charlie Wilson photos from the United Center.
For additional information on Charlie Wilson, visit CharlieWilsonMusic.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at the United Center include Kings Of Leon (Mar. 8); Ariana Grande (Mar. 14); Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey (Mar. 25); Bon Jovi (Mar. 26); John Mayer (Apr. 11); Neil Diamond (May 28); Red Hot Chili Peppers (Jun. 30 and Jul. 1); Queen + Adam Lambert (July 13); Roger Waters (Jul. 22 and 23); J. Cole (Jul. 24) and Bruno Mars (Aug. 16, 17 and 19). For additional details, visit UnitedCenter.com and Ticketmaster.com.