By Sandra W. Plant
MADISON COUNTY —
When Exile took the stage at the EKU Center for the arts on Saturday night, they were welcomed by an appreciative audience of some 800 fans eager to go down memory lane with this band that formed in Richmond back in 1963.
The group of musicians on stage Saturday night put on a show that demonstrated why Exile’s music has lasted through the decades.
Their hair may be thinning a bit, but the talent and the energy is still there, even if only one of the original members is still with the group. Only two current members still have a full head of hair, but who cares? With the passing of the years, these guys have become fantastic musicians.
Exile did their job of bringing back memories when they kicked off their set with a 1986 hit called “Super Love” and 1984’s “Give Me One More Chance.” With their audience back in the Exile mode, they launched into a medley of Exile hits that demonstrated once more their talent and musical ability.
Members of the audience who first heard them at a local pool, bar or senior prom went wild over the medley that included “I Can’t Get Close Enough” from 1987 with J.P. Pennington, the only original member still with the group, rocked out on the guitar. They played “I don’t Want to Be a Memory” and ‘Crazy for Your love” from 1984.
What most fans don’t know is that J.P. Pennington and Sonny LeMaire have written most of the songs performed by Exile and many others that have become big hits for artists such as Alabama, Janie Fritchey and Restless Heart. We were treated Saturday night to a medley of these hits performed, as Pennington said, “the Exile Way.”
Les Taylor wowed the fans with his vocals on a “snuggle up to Mama” tune that he took to number one in 1986 called “She’s Too Good to be True.” Pennington had the audience singing along on a number one hit from 1985, “She’s a Miracle.”
To add to the memorable night, Pennington introduced two original members of the group who were in the audience. The audience cheered when Mac Davenport and Mike Howard took a bow.
An audience member yelled out for the group to play an early favorite called “Church Street Soul Revival” from 1970. Pennington said, “Not tonight, but we will be doing that number with Kentucky Headhunters when both groups are inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame on April 12 in Lexington.”
Exile proved its staying power by playing a couple of their newer songs, one a country song called “Bread on the Table” that featured amazing keyboard work by Marlon Hargis. They have a new Extended Play (EP) disk featuring two gospel numbers done a cappela that showed off their vocal harmonizing skills.
But everyone was waiting for their greatest hit, 1978’s “Kiss You All Over.” The audience got to their feet and at least one hundred cell phones were spotted recording this beloved song.
All in all, it was a great night for Exile fans and a great night of fundraising for the environmental group Kentucky River Keeper.
As a grand finale, Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes presented all five members of Exile with keys to the city and told them to “use the keys often and come back soon.”