Norman Whiteside's Comeback Show
(Norman Whiteside at the Warren Correctional Institution outside of Cincinnati in 2012. Photo: Joshua A. Bickel)
Norman Whiteside doesn't lack for confidence. When asked what to expect at his comeback concert on Saturday, the Grammy-nominated ex-con guarantees an unforgettable experience-a show-stopping performance that will energize, inspire and lift your spirits. "Anybody who leaves disappointed is without a conscience or a soul," he says with a laugh.
Earlier this year, state officials granted the talented singer and keyboardist parole after 31 years in prison for various crimes, including his involvement in the 1982 death of Laura Carter, a Denison University student accidentally killed in a shootout between two rival gangs. While in prison, Whiteside's music was rediscovered thanks to the reissue of the 1977 album You Can Fly On My Aeroplane by Wee, the Columbus group led by Whiteside. The reissue introduced Whiteside's brand of '70s progressive soul to a new generation of fans, including Kanye West, who sampled the title track on his hit "Bound 2,"garnering Whiteside two Grammy nominations in 2015 (shared with a slew of other co-songwriters).
When he returned to Columbus in September, Whiteside didn't expect to jump back on stage right away-"especially after 31 years on ice," he says. Then he started meeting young people inspired by his music and reassessed. With the help of his family, he began putting together the comeback show, dubbed the "Return to Soul Concert," scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Xclusive Elite Entertainment Center, 1921 Channingway Center Drive on the Far East Side (tickets available through ticketmaster.com).
Whiteside will be backed by local band The Liquid Crystal Project. He's been leading the group through a brutal rehearsal schedule in preparation for the gig, much in the manner of Whiteside's late mentor Bill Moss, the founder of the Capsoul record label and later an outspoken member of the Columbus Board of Education. "I yell. I scream. I'm in their faces," Whiteside says. "But they don't take it personally, because they know this is all love."
Also on the lineup are local hip-hop and neo soul performers Rashad, Roxy ("The Soul Butterfly") and Ev Jones. Whiteside is thrilled to share the stage with so many young people, most of whom are 20 to 25 years younger than him. "I'm the granddaddy," he says with a laugh. "It's almost like I robbed a nursery school and taught them all to play."