WAR and Cheech & Chong (pictured here with members of the USC Trojan Band) got funky at the Greek Saturday night.
It was a cool and cloudy night in Los Angeles, but the biggest cloud could be seen looming over the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. Last night, fans packed the picturesque outdoor venue to its brim for the Up in Smoke Tour, featuring the legendary funk band WAR and comedy icons Cheech & Chong, with a special guest performance by Sly and the Family Stone. It was a celebration of genius music and comedy from the past that still resonates with its original audience, yet stands the test of time with a strong following of younger fans.
It felt like a night of tribute, as these reunions of glories past often do. One of music’s greatest pleasures is being able to celebrate music that was once at its pinnacle and seeing where it stands in the present. For the Generation Xers, who made up the majority of the audience, the three sets of performers took the crowd back to when they first heard their harmonies and outrageous comedy. If you wanted to see your grandma holding a beer and a joint, this was the place to be last night.
Words like “boogie” and “get down” flowed throughout the venue like it was 1975. The show kicked off with Sly and the Family Stone, who gave an energetic performance of their classic hits, getting people out of their seats in preparation of what was to come. After the Family Stone, comedians Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong hit the stage with a raunchy and hilarious introduction from Chong’s wife, Shelby. Considered mythical gods to stoners alike, Cheech & Chong kept to their shtick, answering questions from the audience and inducing constant hyena-like laughter throughout the Greek. Cheech & Chong explained how they met, why they broke up, and how they came together with WAR for their tour. Elaborate whistling could be heard throughout The Greek. It was a call for music, and WAR responded with funk, soul and jazz-rock that made even the least coordinated and most self-conscious dancer “boogie.”
WAR’s charismatic lead singer Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan dazzled the crowd with his cool demeanor as the group played classics and hits all night. “The World Is a Ghetto” and “Summer” were crowd pleasers, but “The Cisco Kid” was the definite highlight as Jordan walked off the stage and into the crowd. He proceeded to offer a woman his microphone, daring her to sing. She obliged, and a line formed with eager fans ready to drop some notes. This became an interactive show and made for a unique experience that the fans truly adored. Jordan continued working the crowd. and they responded to his every word – laughing, dancing and drinking the night away. It was 1975 all over again.
After a short intermission, Cheech & Chong came back to perform various skits like “Dave’s Not Here” that called for even more laughter. After all these years, they still make a great, timeless duo. Cheech & Chong’s wisecracks and jokes about their affection for a certain plant still resonate with their audience. The iconic skit, “Santa Claus and the Magic Dust,” told the hilarious story of how Santa manages to deliver millions of gifts to children with the help of a special substance – and they weren’t talking about coffee. The skits were clever, and their ability to tell tales about the many ways drugs can put you in predicaments was quite impressive.
Cheech & Chong left the stage once more and allowed WAR to get the crowd dancing again. There were plenty of songs left that the crowd was eager and happy to hear, including tracks off their new album, Evolutionary. Jolting to a stop, Jordan announced that their next song would not have been possible “without the ladies,” hinting at one of their most popular hits. Drummer Sal Rodriguez was cued to begin with the ever-familiar drumbeat of “Low Rider,” and the audience went into a frenzy. The timeless song, and integral part of Angeleno culture, echoed throughout the park. It was another great moment of the night and perfect way to end the evening.
The night allowed an audience to escape the rigors of daily routine, providing a reason to celebrate a time and place of the past. Throwing it back to the ’70s, performers filled the evening with as much dancing as laughter as possible and recreated a scene that seemed to have existed within the venue once upon a time.