Review: Funk Fest makes smooth transition to Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park, with Anthony Hamilton, Salt-N-Pepa and more
Anthony Hamilton brings the whole damn show.
The R&B singer famous for stripped-down ballads Pray For Me, The Point of it All and Charlene didn’t let his catalogue drag down his 90-minute set to close out the two-night Funk Fest in Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park Saturday night.
In front of a crowd of about 7,000, the crooner took his ballads to church, blending a soulful rendition of The Lord’s Prayer into Pray For Me. Before that, he let loose his happy feet and best old school dance moves from the wop to the snake proving he could shake a leg just a well as he could sing for his fans. The former background vocalist for R&B artist D’Angelo even gave his live band and background singers, The Hamiltones, a chance to shine in the set and display the vocal acrobatics that delight R&B fans.
Hamilton was the capper on the two-night party in the park, which moved to Tampa from St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Park after three years. Organizer Leo Bennett said the move was about cost effectiveness for the festival, because the crowds of 8,000 or less that the concert drew to the Vinoy was not large enough for the venue.
Saturday's audience had Curtis Hixon Park nearly at capacity. Though the gates opened late both days -- causing a line to form down N Ashley Drive -- entering the park, finding a spot with good sight lines, and setting up chairs went relatively smoothly. Vendors set themselves up in the Kiley Gardens area above Curtis Hixon, allowing all of the park’s green space to be used for seating.
Some fans were disappointed by the number of vendors available. Previous shows at Vinoy Park provided enough green space to allow McDonald’s to bring in a trailer and provide samples and director Tyler Perry’s marketers to provide a screening and passes to one of his films. This year, several sponsors roamed around the event distributing swag, while a few had set up booths.
But migrating to a smaller park on the other side of the Bay may have been just what Funk Fest needed to keep Tampa as a part of its festival locations.
Other highlights of the show included Salt-N-Pepa, who performed Saturday night and kept an entire crowd on their feet for 45 minutes. The ladies busted out the classic dance moves for Push It and rapped along with the crowd during Shoop. But the big surprise of the set came when the women performed their hit Whatta Man. Salt danced seductively as she rapped for her husband of 21 years, Gavin Wray, before Pepa asked the DJ to cut the music. She didn’t have a man, she said, and she was looking for one Tampa. Enter the two least coordinated, probably inebriated fans from the concert’s VIP section to dance onstage with Pepa. The laughter and guffaws could have probably been heard on the interstate as the good-sport dancers tried to do their best impressions of sexy.
Earlier Saturday, Miami’s own 69 Boyz and 95 South gave energetic performances of Tootsie Roll and Ride The Train despite not being listed on the official performance roster. The crowd was pleasantly surprised and worked up a sweat in the early evening sunshine.
-- Robbyn Mitchell, tbt*