Review: Ashford & Simpson -- don't miss the real thing 

To hear some old-school soul like only the pros can do, check out Ashford & Simpson at the Rrazz Room.

Backed by a groovin’ five-piece band, the appropriately named "love couple" — they’ve been married for decades — took an excellent, extensive tour down memory lane and into the future Tuesday night in the first show of a two-week engagement in the new club in San Francisco’s Hotel Nikko.

The New York-based songwriting team, possibly best known for their 1985 hit "Solid as a Rock" — which riotously closed the show — covered lots of ground, from 1960s Motown material sung by Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye to a 21st century project, a musical adaptation of a novel called "Invisible Life."

While clearly not youngsters, the pair is far from passé; in February this year they released a well-received new CD, "The Warner Bros. Years: Hits, Remixes & Rarities."

All of their songs sound great live. These two can do more than write irresistible tunes with can’t-miss beats; they know how to sell them, too.

On Tuesday, they looked amazing, Valerie (Simpson) in a sparkling, form-fitting black dress, Nickolas (Ashford) providing sexy counterpoint in a to-die-for white suit over a brown translucent tank top.

Goading the crowd, encouraging vocal participation, the singers opened with the late 1970s-early ‘80s era "It’s Much Deeper," "Is It Still Good To Ya" and "Found a Cure." The cozy room rocked, thanks to contributions from the musicians: pianist Damian Sneed, drummer Bernard Davis, bassist Eluriel Tinker Barfield, vocalist Clayton Bryant and keyboardist-vocalist Valerie Ghent.

Acknowledging Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani in the audience, the pair pointed to Glide Memorial’s fame for community inclusiveness, and then sang several moving gay-themed songs from "Invisible Life." The gospel-tinged show tunes fit nicely alongside the disco flavors of the earlier songs.

Simpson, accompanying herself on piano at the outset, did a knockout version of "I’m Every Woman," which she dedicated to female concertgoers, pointing out "every good woman ought to have a theme song."

The oldies portion of the program began with Ashford’s rendition of the first hit tune they wrote: Ray Charles’ "Let Go Get Stoned," which was a hit in 1966.

From there, they really made history, having been summoned by Berry Gordy to write some classier material for his Motown artists. The duo scored, with "Your Precious Love," "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" and "You’re All I Need to Get By."

Decades later. they remain living proof that there "Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing."  

IF YOU GO

Ashford & Simpson

Where: Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday; closes May 18

Tickets: $45 to $55

Contact: (866) 468-3399 or www.TheRrazzRoom.com

About The Author

Leslie Katz

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