*Quite simply, The Four Tops and Lawrence Payton, Jr. have history.
After all, his father, Lawrence Payton, was an original member of the quartet, which has entertained fans for more than 50 years with classic hits like “Baby I Need Your Loving,” ‘I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” “”It’s The Same Old Song,” “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” and “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got).”
Aside from Abdul “Duke” Fakir, the original Four Tops members (Levi Stubbs, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Payton) have passed away. But their legacy lives on as Fakir leads the group’s current roster, which comprise of the younger Payton, Harold Bonhart and Ronnie McNeir.
For those worried whether the Tops’ latest incarnation can uphold its revered reputation, Payton Jr. is quick to say the group hasn’t missed a beat as it brings in old fans while attracting new ones.
“They jump and they love the music. A lot of people come to you and say ‘That music was the soundtrack to our lives.’ And then there’s younger people that’s hearing it for the first time. And when they hear it, they’re just amazed,” the singer-songwriter told EURweb associate Chris Richburg.
“We come out there, with the full band, with the horns and all of that, with the suits and outfits on. It’s not like we’re up there with tennis shoes and a track. We’re really putting on a show. And it’s something to see.”
Payton’s remarks come as the Tops gear up to perform Saturday (Feb. 21) in Southern California at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center in Arcadia, CA . Though it’s a new day and a new Tops, there’s no question who the glue is that keeps things running smoothly.
“There’s not a show that goes doesn’t by that Duke says something, shows something or teaches us something that we didn’t know. We cannot underestimate the experience that he brings,” Payton says of Fakir, who instilled the importance of professionalism and making sure the show goes on, no matter what.
“If we come to a venue and the sound system goes out, we go right ahead with what we are doing. We just keep going. We don’t let anything stop us,” he continues regarding Fakir’s influence. “He never complains about anything. ‘We traveled all night’ and ‘We didn’t get any sleep.’ There’s none of that. It’s just, ‘Ok. It’s show time.’ And that more than anything is what he instilled in us and he does that by not verbally saying it all the time, but by physically showing it. Just showing up and performing. And performing at that top level. So that, more than anything, is what he really shows us. You can’t overstate it.”
Regarding today’s crop of entertainers, Payton embraces current hit makers while noting the continuing evolution of rap.
“The music today is beautiful. You got artists out there that’s putting out some really beautiful music,” he said while highlighting Sam Smith’s Grammy-winning hit “Stay With Me.” “That song is so beautiful. You got John Legend putting out these beautiful songs. You got Taylor Swift, Katy Perry. You got a lot of people making good music.”
“And you got a lot of good rap music too. It’s coming into its own now. Some of the music is a little risqué and lyrics were just really decadent lyrics and all of that. I have to admit that, but on the other spectrum it’s evolving into something beautiful,” Payton added.
As for what fans can expect at the Arcadia show, Payton summed it up, saying “the Four Tops in its entirety” with their favorite hits, in addition to “a couple of treats.”
“They’re gonna get a little tribute there to the fallen members of the group and then they’re gonna get one or two Broadway songs. They’re gonna get a variety. They’re gonna get the Four Tops in its entirety and they’re gonna get a lot of energy and they’re gonna get beautiful music arrangements and a lot of dancing and a lot of interacting with the audience,” he said while dropping one additional performance note.
“They’re going to get something that I’m sure they have never even expected…They’re going to get a lead solo from Duke Fakir and it’s gonna be in the form of a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” He switched the lyrics a little bit and called it “Our Way.” It has a beautiful arrangement on it. It was arranged by George Rountree, our former music director who passed and it’s gonna be totally awesome. It’s a showstopper.”
“I just hope people will understand when they see Duke Fakir get up on that stage, it’s a lot of experience, two lifetimes of work and a lot of dedication and love to that,” Payton added. “I just want when those people come to really know that he was part of making the soundtrack to their lives and let him feel some love because we are so blessed to have him and others like him still carrying this thing on. That’s what I would like to see.”
Tickets to see the Four Tops at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 21, are $39.50 – $109.50. The show starts at 8 p.m. For more details, call 626-821-1781.
Check out the Tops jamming some of their classic hits: