Charlie Wilson and special guest Fantasia gave concertgoers their money’s worth at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand, Friday August 26. On a day the Minnesota State Fair encouraged attendees to “Unite in Purple” to celebrate the late great Prince, both performers managed to pay homage, while highlighting their own singular gifts. One couldn’t help but think the Purple One himself would’ve really enjoyed this show.
Powerhouse vocalist Fantasia kicked off the show with her hits, including “Without Me” and “I’m Doing Me” before taking the audience back to her American Idol days with a rendition of “Summertime.” Fantasia gave an iconic performance of the classic 1968 ballad during the show’s third season.
She went on to pay tribute to a few old school artists, encouraging the women to “get on their feet” for a gritty version of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” She also gave a nod to Prince and the Minneapolis Sound with “Nasty Girl” by Vanity 6 and “The Bird” by Morris Day & The Time.
Charlie Wilson took the stage sometime after 9 pm, tearing into The Gap Band’s “Party Train,” complete with four backup dancers in colorful suits reminiscent of the video from 1983. The feel good party groove was the perfect start to his fun, vibrant and soulful set.
Wilson’s voice was in fine form as he performed a measured blend of his newer solo hits and earlier Gap Band classics. His band, with stand out, saxophonist Nick Stone, kept things lively during the costume changes. The most notable attire being suits that lit up in the dark as he and his dancers danced.
(Below, Wilson encouraged concertgoers to light up their phones, share images on social media and follow him on Facebook and Twitter).
A mash-up of Mark Ronson’s and Bruno Mars’ hit “Uptown Funk,” and The Gap Band’s “I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up And Dance (Opps)” was another inspired moment. Shortly after, Wilson asked the crowd “What’s my name?” to introduce his signature song “Charlie, Last Name Wilson.”
The highlight of the night had to be Wilson taking the audience to church as he shared his faith. Displaying his southern Baptist roots, he sang “My God Is Amazing” and “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do), as he encouraged the crowd to not be ashamed to show love for the man above.
He also interspersed bits of his inspiring story. “I’m not a preacher, but I have a testimony,” he said, as he reminded the crowd of his journey from rags to riches to rags again as he battled and overcame a drug addiction and health problems. He then pivoted to signature Gap Band hits like “Yearning for Your Love” and “Outstanding.”
Wilson told the MSR in advance of his concert that he planned to do a tribute to Prince and he kept his word. Due to the planned fireworks show that was billed as a “tribute” to Prince, there didn’t seem to be enough time for an encore, and Wilson ended up closing the show with a Prince song.
After telling the crowd how much he loved the late icon, his band launched into a rousing version of “Baby I’m A Star.” Although it was apparent that he didn’t know all of the words, he owned the song with high-energy and showmanship, proving that ‘Charlie, Last Name Wilson’ is, without a doubt, every bit a star.
See more photos of Charlie Wilson and scenes from the Minnesota State Fair below. All photos by Chris Juhn.
Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com