Best concert of my life. There I said it. And I’m sticking to it.
Of course, I am biased. Chuckii Booker is one of my top-two favorite R&B artists in the world…of all time…ever. (If you’re wondering who the other one is, it’s Al B. Sure!)
Chuckii’s music was the soundtrack to my adolescence. I’d just broken up with (okay, dumped by) my first middle school girlfriend. I was devastated. I stumbled upon Chuckii’s “Turned Away” one late night on VH1 and it was over. It was a wrap. It was then when I became a Chuckii fan for life. Not just a fan – a mega fan. I’d probably argue I’m Chuckii Booker’s biggest fan ever. I’ll challenge anyone to tell me why they’re a bigger fan. Not happening!
I’ll get to the concert review in a bit, but first, indulge me on my fanatical obsession with Chuckii and his music, won’t you?
The Soundtrack to my Life
Chuckii’s entire first album is simply a masterpiece in every way, and continued to accompany me on my teenage journey through life. As an eight-grader who had just had his heart broken, and then went on to have a plethora of new, lovey-dovey school boy crushes, there was a song on that album for every one of my moods, experiences and phases of turning from a boy to a man.
On my sad days, “Heavenly Father” would get me through the day – reminding me to turn to God when I was feeling down. I even rocked “Keep Your Guard Up” to get me psyched when I knew a playground fight was in my future…sadly, it didn’t help me from getting my ass kicked anyway. But my point: Every single song on that album was just incredible and told a different story in such dynamic ways. Each title accompanied me through my adolescence like a best friend who understood everything.
Fast forward, to 15 years old, and I somehow got a hold of an advance copy of Niice ‘n Wiild. To this day I don’t know how that happened – I found it at a used record store months before it was released. Talk about stumbling on a diamond in the dirt. This was a new album and a new time in my life: I’d just moved to a new city and gotten together with my very first “real” high school girlfriend – the kind of relationship that went way beyond just a “kiss,” if you know what I mean. And just as my life had changed in a major way, Chuckii’s second album seemed to magically mirror all the stuff I was going through at that particular time. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say songs like “Deep C Diiver” and “Niice ‘n Wiild” added to all of my new “experiences.”
I remember walking home from my girlfriend’s house listening to Chuckii on my Walkman – this was one of the happiest times of life and the music put those feelings on steroids. Sadly, as teenage relationships do, this one ended. Then it was me, angry, blasting “Games” at peak volume from my ’83 Cutlass Supreme – not only did it mirror the way I was feeling, but sounded so good thumping through my 15″ Kickers in the trunk. It wasn’t long before switching to “I Should Have Loved You,” as I went over all of the mistakes I made in the relationship as a foolish young man. And finally, it was “I Giit Around,” once I was ready to get back on the saddle.
Look, I could talk about Chuckii’s albums and songs and lyrics and melodies for hours – but you’re here for the concert review. I just wanted to paint a picture first and drop a little insight on why I enjoyed this show so much.
It was Wednesday, September 7th and I was live in-studio, hosting my afternoon radio show in San Diego, when I came across the news of a Chuckii Booker show…THIS Sunday in Oakland. I think it took me about three seconds to realize I absolutely could not–no way, no how–miss this opportunity. As a grown man at the age of 45, who’s traveled to 192 countries (out of 193), met just about every celebrity you can think of (including getting a kiss from J-Lo,) hired Al B. Sure! to work at one of my radio stations and freestyled live on the air with Biz Markie – seeing Chuckii live might just possibly be the very last item on my bucket list that I had yet to check off…and I was about to! I felt like I was 14 again. Is this really happening?
I’m hyped folks! I’m about to pull off the funkiest show EVER in Oakland! Chuckii Booker “featuring” University! That real 🔥 Who’s coming?
— Eric 'Pikfunk' Smith (@Pikfunk) June 6, 2017
I didn’t think twice about purchasing an airline ticket to get me to Oakland to see the show. I’d landed by noon and met up with an old friend for lunch at Jack London Square. He informed me that the venue for tonight’s show was just a three minute walk from where we were eating, so after the meal, we walked over to Yoshi’s to check it out. Just seeing Chuckii’s name on the marquee made the hairs on my arms stand up. This was actually happening!
I enjoyed exploring the neighborhood around my hotel that afternoon and before I knew it, it was time to get ready and head back over to Yoshi’s. Why was I so nervous???
This was my first time ever going to Yoshi’s. After being in the music business for 30+ years myself, which included producing and hosting hundreds of concerts, this was one of my first times (in a long time) going to a show as a “ticket holder.” Believe it or not, it was a great feeling – once again, taking me back to my teenage years. For once, I wasn’t going to a show because I was “working it”…I’d be there as a fan.
The email with my tickets stated that to get an assigned seat, you had to eat at the restaurant first, and reservations were suggested. Man, all this was becoming a little work, but anything for Chuckii – let’s grab some sushi!
The dinner and vibes at the restaurant section of Yoshi’s was great and it was obvious at least half of the room was there for the show – lots of good looking people, dressed up for a show. The anticipation was killing me!
Soon after dinner, the line began forming and we were all let into the room. The cabaret-style venue was spacious, but just enough to remain intimate, as guests were ushered to their table. House music set the mood – whoever chose that playlist knew what they were doing. One of my favorite songs from Switch played while I sipped on a $15 Oakland Sunrise while surveying the crowd. It was obvious these folks were here to have a good time. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I was surprised at how diverse the crowd was – both in color and age. Everyone looked like they were ready to have a good time – everyone had such a great aura about them, but of course they did – they’re Chuckii Booker fans. We are the best kind of people.
And then, the house music stopped and the lights dimmed. The crowd roared. After a pre-roll medley of Chuckii’s greatest hits played, CB and the band emerged and started with “Touch,” and I just about fell out of my chair. So many emotions converged all at once. One of the songs that I have easily listened to 1,000+ times, was playing live, feet away from me. And this was no tracked show…that was DOA on the bass?! Am I dreaming???!!! Tracy Carter and Joe Archie on the keys??? Bobby G on guitar? Varo Johnson on drums? And somebody pinch me: Eddie “M” Mininfield on the sax (this guy played with Prince)? They are all legends and make up University 2.0 and I was just awestruck that they were all together, tonight, jamming “Touch.”
Chuckii’s vocals were on point. The sound from the band, coupled with the perfect acoustics in the room made for an incredible listening experience. And something I cannot put into words–Chuckii and the band’s overall “vibe”–you just had to be there. This was the first show they played together in 33 years and they seemed just as excited as I was…and you know how excited I was.
View this post on Instagram
Next, was a new track called “Honey Walk.” I was overjoyed to see Chuckii was coming with new material after all these years. At one point, he joked with the crowd about why his solo career had taken a back seat – that the real money comes from making the music for artists like Janet, Tina and Lionel. Just in case you don’t know, Chuckii has played the role of super producers for some of the world’s most iconic artists. He was also responsible for Troop, and if you’ve ever listened to my syndicated Slow Jams show, you know that hearing Troop late at night on The Quiet Storm as a 13-year old kid was literally what ignited the flame for my entire career as a broadcaster. So you can say Chuckii is responsible for my career and my whole radio show.
I was a little surprised Chuckii hit “Turned Away” so soon, but no complaints here. I can’t tell you how much hearing it live made me just explode with emotion. I just can’t find the words. “Turned Away,” live on stage…wow. Just wow!
Next, “Don’t You Know I Love You,” another one of my absolute favorites. I sang every single word. The second drink was kicking in and I was singing loud. Head-bob in full effect. Man, I was feeling the groove.
By the time Chuckii was halfway through with the emotional “You Don’t Know,” I was full blown crying like a little girl who lost her puppy and I didn’t care who saw me. I was in the moment, dammit, and no one there knew who I was, so…I let those tears roll. I must underscore how amazing the sound was. My heart was so full.
And along came “That’s My Honey.” Good Lord, the show just kept getting better. Again, one of my all-time favorite songs and I didn’t miss a word.
View this post on Instagram
At one point in the night, someone called out a request for “Games.” Chuckii made a joke about it not being time yet.
“Gotta kiss the neck first – kiss the neck,” joked Chuckii, alluding to needing some foreplay before the “main event.”
Someone else in the crowd yelled out “Heavenly Father!” (one of Chuckii’s album cuts) – I was glad I was in the company of some real Chuckii fans.
I won’t spoil the entire show, so I’ll just tell you that you can’t even imagine the incredible and unexpected twist that Chuckii dropped on Troop’s “Spread My Wings.” It was so dope, the crowd demanded a replay. They did the song twice. They blew the roof off with this one. I won’t ruin the surprise, but you will not expect this!
While the energy was still through the roof, Chuckii and the boys segued into the classic “Do It (Til You’re Satisfied)” by B.T. Express. Everyone was on their feet.
The Funk-o-Meter was finally turned up all the way to ten, as Chuckii and University 2.0 began the three-track “Soul Triilogy” (I, II and III). It was nothing short of incredible, and like all of the other songs they played that night, I’d listened to this one thousands of times – finally hearing it live, and played so well, was just so good. It was downright emotionally exhausting.
And then, finally, “Games“, which brought down the house – even though said house had already been “brought down” more times that I can count.
I was sad to see the show the end, but at the same time, felt an incredible peace come over my soul: l’d checked off one of the last few items remaining on a bucket list I’d been so blessed to have almost completed: I saw Chuckii live. Holy cow. Weeks later, I’m still trying to process it all. In hindsight, I was glad they didn’t have a merch booth at the show – I would’ve definitely blown the budget. But seriously, Chuckii – let’s get a merch table going at the next one, please! Your fans will sell it out, I’m sure.
View this post on Instagram
The venue was just perfect, sound was A+. The set list was an absolute dream. You could tell that the band had been practicing this one for a long time – everything went off flawlessly, as if this was their 20th show together this year. You’d never have guessed it was their first. Chuckii’s candor and off-the-cuff banter with his fans was the glue that held all of this awesomeness together. I only wish there was a chance to buy up-close seats or some sort of VIP package, ’cause you know I would’ve broken out the credit card. Take my money, Chuck!
I’m thrilled to tell you that you can catch Chuckii live this year:
March 3rd, 2023
Rock & Brews
Purchase tickets HERE
View this post on Instagram