ALBANY — No band can please everyone. But “everyone” is who comes to Albany’s Alive at Five. The trick is to hit an acceptable common denominator. Thursday night’s show nailed it with a disco theme.
In the ’70s it was easy to hate disco. Today, the genre’s harmless legacy — it never did ruin music — is loved.
The Trammps, the quintessential sound of the disco ’70s, opened with an hour of their classics. Ten-plus men clad in rust colored slacks and matching sparkling shirts sang songs like “Hold Back the Night,” “Love Train,” and “Just My Imagination.”
“We’re going to burn this mother down tonight,” the original singer Jimmy Ellis yelled, teasing early their big hit “Disco Inferno.” In fact, every song at its beginning sounded like “Disco Inferno” mixed with the theme from “The Love Boat.”
“I remember you at Studio 54,” Ellis yelled, launching into “The Night the Lights Went Out (in New York City).”
They ended the show with their first number one hit “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart.” And then a long medley that spent too much time taunting their biggest hit. But when “Disco Inferno” finally came, it was great. It was probably the most people I’ve ever seen dancing at an Alive at Five. That is, until the next Philly-bred act came out.
Kathy Sledge, of Sister Sledge, started her set with a soulful version of Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star,” which took us by surprise. Her guitarist played a fancy fusion-like solo that definitely made some uneasy. Was that it for the disco show? Fortunately, Sledge dove quickly into the familiar and expected, and stayed there starting with “Lost in Music,” her backup singers swaying their hips together and Sledge moving her arms with them.
Then came “Thinking of You,” and the front portion of the Riverfront amphitheater turned into an outdoor dance floor, including about a dozen dancing mothers from Delmar led by Liz Dole.
Sledge returned to a very cool Wonder tune, “Do I Do,” and while Sledge gave it her soulful tilt, it was still soaked in disco, thanks to the band.
For “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” Sledge brought up people from the crowd to dance on stage, and asked which of them was the greatest. A few dancers rose to the challenge. Everyone on the lawn jumped to their feet for this, and the place turned into a giant discotheque.
She shifted gears with a smooth, ’50s sounding “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” displaying a knack for swing and letting her band strut their stuff. This was too bad, because she had so many hits to go and only so much time on stage. Forget the band. But she managed to fit in the goodies.
As many times as she has sung these songs over the decades, Sledge appeared to be having a great time.
She was with none of her sisters — though her daughter and a cousin was singing with her.
Then came all the good stuff: Earth Wind and Fire’s “September,” “Good times,” and of course, “We Are Family.”