Tangier hosts veteran acts this weekend

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Long-running Minneapolis R&B band Mint Condition will bring their sophisticated soul, funk and R&B to The Tangier for three shows; two on Sunday and another on Tuesday.

Since neither Miley Cyrus nor Kanye West has said/done anything particularly goofy in the last 36 hours or so let’s see what’s happening around town, shall we?

The Tangier Cabaret near Akron’s Highland Square is having a very busy weekend of veteran acts.

Tonight, classic hard-rock band UFO will perform with opener Fabulous Miss Wendy. The band, which was always more popular in its native Britain and Russia, is in its 40th year and still cranking out its mid/late 1970s hits such as Too Hot to Handle, Lights Out and Doctor, Doctor.

It’s often credited as a link between hard rock and heavy metal and as a major influence on British heavy metal acts such as Iron Maiden and Megadeth and Pearl Jam and others.

In 2012, the band released its 20th studio album, Seven Deadly, featuring most of the current lineup of UFO, which includes original lead singer Phil Mogg and drummer Andy Parker along with longtime member keyboardist Paul Raymond and guitarist/’80s shredmaster Vinnie Moore.

R&B band to perform

Minneapolis R&B/soul/funk band (yeah, that’s right, an R&B band!) Mint Condition will perform two sold-out shows on Sunday and a third show on Tuesday (there were still seats left for the Tuesday show as of this printing) of its smooth adult contemporary tunes.

The quintet of high school buddies got its start during the height of the New Jack Swing movement after being discovered at a gig at the famed First Avenue club and was signed by ’80s R&B production team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

The band released its debut Meant to Be Mint in 1991 featuring the singles Are You Free and its Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit and “Quiet Storm” radio staple Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes).

The group had several other hits including the New Jack Swing groovin’ Nobody Does It Betta and the trio of ballads You Send Me Swingin’, What Kind of Man Would I Be and You Don’t Have to Hurt No More featuring a video directed by Devo’s Gerald Casale.

Mint Condition has released eight albums with the most recent three, including 2012’s mostly mellow Music@the Speed of Life, making the pop and R&B charts. More importantly, to me, anyway, Mint Condition is an actual R&B band playing actual instruments and writing songs, not just beats with words over them.

I’m sorry, am I rattling my old-fart-things-were-funkier-back-in-my-day cane too loudly?

Civic welcomes Winwood

On Tuesday, the Akron Civic Theatre welcomes a bona fide rock and roll legend and hall of famer when Steve Winwood comes to town.

The 65-year-old singer/keyboardist/guitarist has been in the rock public’s eye since his days as a fresh-faced, old soul-voiced 16-year-old co-writing and belting out Gimme Some Lovin’ and I’m a Man for the Spencer Davis Group.

Winwood left the SDG and formed the one-off supergroup Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Rick Grech. The group produced one album before dissolving and Winwood moved on to the eclectic, spacey Traffic, which produced a few classic albums such as Mr. Fantasy (1967) and The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971).

Eventually Winwood went solo and his 1980 sophomore effort, Arc of a Diver, surprised many by being a hit record featuring the poppy, upbeat single If You See a Chance. In 1986, Winwood scored again with the album Back in the High Life. The album hit No. 3, sold quintuple platinum and earned Winwood two Grammys for record of the year and best male pop vocal performance for the Chaka Khan-laced single Higher Love.

Winwood’s streak continued with the 1988 double platinum, Billboard album chart-topping Roll With It which contained the gospel/blues inflected title track and earned Winwood album and record of the year Grammy nominations.

Winwood hasn’t released a new album since 2009’s Nine Lives, which debuted in the Billboard 200 Top 15 and sported AAA radio-topping single Dirty City featuring buddy Eric Clapton. But Winwood’s catalog is strong enough to fill 90 or so minutes with his still quite strong “blue-eyed soul” tenor and a gaggle of classic rock and pop.

Rockin’ roots

Tonight, the downtown Akron rock club the Rock Factory will play host to Taproot, the post-grunge, nu/alt metal quartet from Ann Arbor, Mich., with openers Righteous Vendetta.

Taproot is probably best known for its 2002 single Poem, one of the most played songs on rock radio that year from its second album, Welcome, which peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard 200.

The band has long since dropped the clean vocals/dirty vocal clichés of its era and has opened up its sound over the course of its six albums.

Taproot is currently touring behind the 2012 album The Episodes, an ambitious, fairly eclectic concept album with a heavy dose of prog-metal replacing the post-grunge moves. I have no idea what the concept of The Episodes is, but it’s narrated by a Speak and Spell, so I'll give the band a few cool points for that detail.

Openers Righteous Vendetta is a Christian metalcore quintet from Wyoming with three albums, including its latest, The Fire Inside, released earlier this month.

The band’s music works the throbbing, drop-tuned guitars, big backbeats and rafter-reaching choruses of current mainstream heavy metal faves such as Killswitch Engage. If you listened to hard rock radio or watched MTV2/Heaedbanger’s Ball in the late ’90s, early 2000s, most of the evening’s music should sound pretty familiar. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you and your eardrums.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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