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Rufus At Masonic, February 5

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Al Perkins' Midwest Productions pulled off a two-day coup last week with Thursday and Friday'night sell-outs for Rufus and the extremely popular Chaka Khan at Masonic Temple, the capacity crowds had gathered to e'ngage in s.ome sure-enough gettin' down. The excitement started to mount for the Thursday night show, upon which this review is based, during the 45-minute wait for the opening act, a six-piece Ann Arbor-based ensemble called Shotgun which proved to pack a punch as heavy as its name. Opening with a blasting "Let the Good Times Roll" variation and kicking right into "Get Down Tonight," Shotgun tore into the frantic, eager crowd like a round from a 12gauge. A hip instrumental followed, showing ■off the band's trumpet and alto saxophone players to good advantage, and the guitarist offered a smooth, moving vocal reading of the standard "For the Love of You" to move the energy to a slightly different level. "Troubleshooter," apparently an original piece, romped and stomped in a straight-out rock and roll assault, and the Gamble-Huff anthem "I Love Music," very convincingly done, brought their show to a real peak. Shotgun closed with "Fight the Power" where this writer would have been satisfied at the clünatic end of "1 Love Music"-the steady succession of currently popular material tends to get a bit overwhelming-but it was a pleasant excess after all, and M.C. Clarence "Foody" Rome reflected the surpnsed delight of the crowd as he took the band off stage. Al Hudson & the Soul Partners, - the based 0 AtlanticAteo recording stars who are handled by Perkins, hit the stage after another lengthy wait with right, "I Love Music." Al's versión sorrowfully paled in comparison to Shotgun's hard-rocking rendition despite the 12-string rhythm guitar arrangement hammered out by the Soul Partners. Hudson recovered quickly with a basically moving version of "Wake Up Everybody," and he finally granted the crowd one of his own tunes with the semireggae-feeling "Love Is My Number One Need," a treat which was somewhat blunted by the band's third raggedy ending in a row. The Soul Partners' curren t single, "Love Is," a classical R&B bailad rendered in a touching falsetto by the band's bassist, managed to drag somewhat in the middle when the bass player broke into a creaky rap about what "love is" to him. Al moved back out in front to finish up with a pointlessly long imitation of Phillippe Wynne doing "Love Me Or Leave Me," tor which Hudson brought out the Spinners' Henry . rambrough to introd Al as "the mighty Spinners." Pretty weird, but unfortunately not out of character with the rest of Al's show that night. As one of Al's i fans who was, I pulling lor l him to turn I ■ the alrcady Ê excited I crowd out, Bj this writer was sad to observe his disappomting performance and offers these words ol criticism only in the hope that Al will give more thought to the program for his next major concert appearance. An even longer wait, precipitated with frequent boos and rounds of impatient hand-clapping from the audience, and then the stars of the show finally made their appearance. A few mumbled words about missing equipment did nothing to make people happier, but when Chaka Khan slithered pudgüy onstage a few moments later the crowd had what thèy'd been . waiting for, and everything was OK at last. Opening with the recent smash "Once You Get Started," which proved to be the highlight of the Chaka Khan show for this writer, the garishly sexy . sweetheart of song rnanaged to keep it together for "You Got the Love," perhaps despite the fooi standing in front of the stage waving an album cover in her eyes. But where one had anticipated a sure, steady climb in enerey and excitement through the rest of the set, the show began quickly to decline in both essential qualities, and by the time Chaka had worked her way through "Sweet Thing," "Pack My Bags," "Stop On By," "I'm a Woman (Backbone)," an ínconsequential k bailad, and lurched into ■k the Rufus natiunal an thcm "Teil ■I Me Some■I thin' Good," even that thrilling gem of a song f -fc carne out tited and dumpy. Fnformed sources have reported that the following night's show was a real triumph for Rufus and C'haka. an experience I wasn't fortúnate enough to share, but it must be said that the Thursday night performance was a definite let-down and certainly not what this reviewer, nor the audience at large, had come to expect from this dynamic unit. Perhaps the rigors of the road, including a very well-produced pre-concert press party (by the local ABC Records peoplej, the missing equipment, and recurrent sound system problems durihg the show, combined to make a top-flight per-, formance impossible; in any. case, one hopes that these and any other problems can b,e . conquered the next time Rufus hits town. Both the band and their audience deserve bet-. ter.