Be it sets featuring numbers by Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson or The Supremes, “Masters of Motown” aims to be as thorough an examination of this classic era as possible, said John Hodges, leader of the group.
“We try to stay within the same avenue that (Berry Gordy) he created,” Hodges said.
With two 45-minute sets separated by an intermission, audiences get the full package, complete with choreography, costumes, the whole works.
“It's taking people back to when music had more meaning and substance to it, and bringing back a lot of good memories for people,” Hodges said.
“Masters of Motown” is a tribute show, but it's unlike many similar productions. Whereas some tribute artists aim to immerse themselves in the persona and personality by attempting to “perform as” the artist(s) or to essentially provide a history lesson, of sorts, Hodges said “Masters of Motown” doesn't take that approach. Instead, Hodges said, they want the music to speak for itself.
“It's pretty much a straight performance,” Hodges said. “We just stay true to the music.”
“We were doing Motown when Motown first came out,” Hodges said.
Motown, as it is known, was a record label started by Berry Gordy Jr. in 1959 in Detroit. (The name itself is a combination of “motor” and “town,” in reference to Detroit's nickname of “The Motor City.”) The label would go on to become home to some of the biggest names in music, including Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
For Hodges, Motown's sound and personalities are timeless, able to retain their significance and energy and impact decades after they first hit the airwaves.
“It's everlasting music. You can turn the radio on now and hear 'My Girl' or a Supremes song or “Dancing in the Street' and it's just as great today as it was when they recorded it 30 or 40 years ago,” he said.
Motown as we know it has essentially dissolved (a slow process that began once disco arrived and took the focus away from the group dynamics that set Motown performers apart), yet its music and artists remain an influence, though, Hodges said, with current artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West sampling bits from Otis Redding songs. Hodges said he considers it an honor and a pleasure to continue the tradition of this style and legacy of music and performance.
Tyler Community Concert Association will present Masters of Motown at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14 at Caldwell Auditorium in Tyler. Individual tickets are $30 per person, with season passes available for $60. For additional information or to purchase tickets, call 903-592-6266 or visit www.tcca.biz.