At an age when most R&B artists might feel fortunate to eke out their livings on the oldies circuit, Charlie Wilson is in the prime of his career.
Wilson, 62, performed for about 8,000 fans at the Sprint Center on Sunday as part of his first tour as an arena headliner.
He began recording as a member of the Gap Band more than 40 years ago. The family act from Oklahoma is responsible for a few of the most memorable funk hits of the 1970s and 1980s.
After surviving several lean years -- Wilson explained Sunday that “I went from rags to riches and from riches to rags” -- he altered the trajectory of his floundering career with the comeback album “Charlie, Last Name Wilson” in 2005. The recording recast Wilson as a godfather of contemporary urban music.
Wilson successfully played the role of a vital elder statesman on Sunday. In addition to his undeniable charisma, Wilson’s 95-minute outing featured four torrid dancers, a lively seven-piece band and exceptional renditions of many beloved hits.
The selections included versions of a pair of notable collaborations with hip-hop stars. Wilson reprised his contributions to “Beautiful,” the groundbreaking 2003 smash for Snoop Dogg, and “Bound 2,” Kanye West’s controversial 2013 hit.
The hip-hop songs fit seamlessly alongside classics by the Gap Band including the deep funk stomp of “Early In the Morning” and the sublime soul of “Yearning For Your Love,” a 1981 love song that’s aged as gracefully as Wilson.
Much of Wilson’s recent solo material is no less compelling. The band embellished the joyous “Touched By an Angel” with impressive improvisations and evoked 1950s R&B on an elegant new arrangement of “Goodnight Kisses.”
Wilson is an engaging showman. He fell to his knees during an uplifting gospel segment and danced with the confidence of a teenager exhibiting his flashy moves on an episode of “Soul Train.”
After Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed presented Wilson with a ceremonial key to the city after a riveting rendition of “There Goes My Baby,” the singer slyly asked a member of the audience if the award would provide him access to her home.
Two fine balladeers opened the show. Backed by a five-piece band, Joe started the evening-long dance party with a cover of Maze’s “Before I Let Go.” Ten musicians provided a lush setting for Kem’s tangy voice.
“We’re letting people know that black music is a very serious thing,” Kem said. The high production values and stellar musicianship displayed Sunday further confirmed the universal appeal of classic soul and R&B.
CHARLIE WILSON SET LIST
Early In the Morning
Touched By an Angel
Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)
Charlie, Last Name Wilson
There Goes My Baby
Yearning For Your Love
I Wanna Be Your Man