Kool & The Gang Are Touring with Kid Rock; Here's the Obvious Reason Why
I admit it: When I got the chance to talk to Robert Bell -- that's Kool -- of Kool & the Gang ahead of tonight's show at Ak-Chin Pavilion, I couldn't resist asking the obvious question, much as I usually try to avoid them: Hey, how and why are you touring with Kid Rock?
The answer I got: Because touring with Van Halen went so well.
As it turns out, that's completely accurate, but it didn't quite get to the root of their presence on Kid Rock's $20 Best Night Ever Tour. To his eternal credit, Kool powered through, continuing to explain the very simple bonds tying them together until I finally figured it out.
Even in their heyday, after all, Kool & The Gang genre-bended with abandon. "We kind of felt whatever the groove was at the time," he says. "The '70s were more funk . . . and some jazz songs. 'Jungle Boogie' or 'Funky Stuff' or 'Hollywood Swingin'.' We didn't really have a lead singer at that time . . . We had the Kool & The Gang style of swinging, but in 1979, we made a change again, and decided to get a lead singer," which led to a run of poppier '80s hits like "Celebration."
"During that time we also had a couple AOR records," he tells me, unsolicited. "So we had a combination of different styles. Funk, pop, rock . . ." Kool describes the Gang's career as an "evolution," which isn't an uncommon musician turn of phrase. But he's careful to call it an "evolution of music" -- it's not just a band changing, but a band changing with the times while maintaining its own sound.
Even the songs evolved with the times; as a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I was first introduced to "Celebration" in its capacity as the official rally song of the World Series-winning 1982 team all my childhood favorites were compared to and found wanting. When they play "Celebration" live, it's a fair bet that most members of the crowd have their own, distinct personal connection to it.
"It's great to have a song like that," he says. "It's the type of record that's hard to repeat . . . I mean, there was other songs called 'Celebrate' and 'Celebration,' but ours seemed to stand the test of time."
Which gets us close to the really obvious reason Kool & The Gang will be playing Kid Rock's $20 Best Night Ever Tour.