Urban radio pioneer and syndicated morning show personality Tom Joyner sent shockwaves across the airwaves two years ago when he announced that he would be stepping down from his long-running syndicated morning show.
“I’m putting in my two-year notice,” Joyner said on the show. “With the contract that I just signed, at the end of 2019 will be the end of the ‘Tom Joyner Morning Show.’ I want to have a swan song that’s two years long. It’s been a good ride, but like everything, it must come to an end.”
Our city was a part of that swan song Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena. Joyner is saying goodbye personally by way of a concert series that highlights R&B artists that have been in regular rotation over the course of his quarter-century in syndication and nearly 40 years on air. St. Louis was one of the lucky cities to host the Tom Joyner One More Time Experience. The show was presented locally by Radio One St. Louis’ 95.5 FM The Lou and featured R&B veteran Kem and legends Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.
Much like the title of the show implied, the show’s namesake was a fixture on stage for nearly the entire night. Joyner introduced both acts personally. Instead of retreating out of sight, he sat visibly perched on stage for his listeners to see. Joyner genuinely enjoyed himself from start to finish. He jumped off his stool and danced along during the performances of Kem and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. When Kem’s background singer L. Renee was invited center stage for a solo, Joyner and Kem danced together as the woman slayed a rendition of Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing.” And when Joyner took off his own blazer and draped it across the shoulders of Beverly to signal the end of the band’s set, Joyner’s navy shirt was soaked with sweat after bounced and grooved through the legendary R&B band’s entire performance. It was a show Joyner declared was “among the top five” of the best performances over the many times he has seen Maze grace the stage.
And while the concert was a part of the bowing out of his eponymous “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” There wasn’t a hint of sadness over the course of the night. The fans who packed into Chaifetz provided Joyner with an arena sized going away party that had the vibe of an intimate gathering or family reunion – where he was revered as a beloved patriarch.
The party kicked off with 95.5 FM personalities DJ Kut and Isis Jones and a spin session that had the near capacity crowd dancing and singing along to Kut’s playlist of old-school R&B and hip-hop.
St. Louis native and renowned comedian Guy Torry, who has been a recurring guest on TJMS, served as the evening’s official host, though Joyner took the liberty of introducing Kem and Maze.
As Kem took the stage, he credited Joyner as being critical to his success as an urban adult contemporary artist.
“Tom Joyner has been riding with us since ‘Kemistry,’” Kem said. “I don’t know where the music would have been without him.”
As per usual, Kem delivered a stellar set that highlighted his 15-plus year career.
He started out with “Love Calls,” the song that put him on the map of R&B music.
His hour-long set pulled from each of his studio albums, with fans particularly connected with his performances of “Share My World” and “If It’s Love” (performed with L. Renee). He paid homage to the late Al Jarreau as one of his primary influences, and personally mentioned a host of other artists – artists he said Tom Joyner was known for playing on his show – and gave another of his background singers, J.J. Evans, an opportunity to wow audiences with a snippet of Shalamar’s “For The Lover In You.”
Before Maze took the stage, Joyner was presented with a proclamation by St. Louis Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed, a special gift from a local chapter of his beloved Omega Psi Phi fraternity and gifted a personalized St. Louis Cardinals jersey by Torry.
Beverly’s voice is not what it once was – which shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone at this point – but the energy and connection with fans he has been providing for more than fifty years as the band’s front man was in mint condition. And he was able to maintain that energy for the entire set.
“We Are One,” “Happy Feelings,” “Golden Time of Day,” “Joy And Pain,” “Can’t Get Over You,” and others had fans grooving in their seats.
As usual, they closed out the show with the black cookout playlist classic “Before I Let Go.” The audience spontaneously erupted into an arena-wide electric slide that commenced as soon as the opening orchestral intro and Frankie’s “whoa ooo whoa…” followed by the guitar riff that kick off the song – and continued for nearly ten minutes.
Joyner was so moved by the finale that he ran up and draped his blazer across Beverly’s shoulders much like a cape and bounced to the beat alongside the singer as the band played out the selection.
The night was capped off by a toast to Joyner led by Jones.
“I love you St. Louis,” Joyner said in response.
The performances and the exchange of energy between the artists, the audience and Joyner made for the best possible goodbye.