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Contours are Motown amazing

The Contours, a Motown quartet, are at Kleinhans Music Hall this weekend, warbling and hoofing their way through an evening of vintage hits. Friday night, clad in matching snazzy suits, they sure burned a lot of calories.

A typical song -- "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," say -- has them going through all kinds of moves, casually but also more or less in synch. Their default, the equivalent of a boxer shuffle, seems to be a kind of slow jogging in place.

But then, while they're singing, they'll turn around, kick back, face the front again, dip forward, touch right hand to left heel, clap hands, lift arms, turn right. It's like constant aerobics. It never ends.

All this activity is, I'm sure, second nature to a Motown master. But to me, it's amazing. It was also interesting that the group managed it through the whole evening. Usually at pops concerts, the featured artists don't emerge until after intermission. The Contours, bless them, performed nonstop through the entire concert. Like Lance Diamond, they changed clothes at intermission.

Formed in 1959, the Contours became known as a group rowdier than most of their contemporaries. They'd slide around on stage and do splits. They struck gold in the summer of '62 with "Do You Love Me?" -- a dance hit written by Berry Gordy.

Other Contours hits we heard Friday included "Just a Little Misunderstanding" and the witty "First I Look at the Purse."

"Who's got the biggest purse in the house?" one Contour demanded of the women in Kleinhans, concluding that song on Friday. The Contours underwent several configurations over the years, and it appears that Sylvester Potts is the only original member in this particular lineup.

But the old Motown spirit is there, and you don't get to see it much these days. Friday's concert was a ton of fun.

If there were ever any competition among Motown groups, that's long gone, and the Contours eagerly paid tribute to musicians who might once have been called their rivals. Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Four Tops -- they all had their turn.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Resident Conductor Robert Franz, blended seamlessly into the evening.

The night yielded one classic moment. Though banter was kept happily at a minimum, one of the Contours ventured into the audience and zeroed in on a woman in one of the front rows. He coaxed her away from her companion. And they slow-danced for an entire chorus of "In the Still of the Night."

This was no stage hug. They held each other tight, her head on his chest. You go, girl! Everyone was laughing.

e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com

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Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

"A Motown Salute" with the Contours on Friday night in Kleinhans Music Hall. Another performance at 8 tonight.

For more information, call 885-5000 or visit www.bpo.org.

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