There are about 7,000 adolescents experiencing homelessness in the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts. On May 10, Texas Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel and Focus on Teens, a nonprofit organization, put on a show at the Kessler Theater to help support the needs of these children.
Eric Nadel’s Seventh Birthday Benefit featured an auction and performances by Seth Walker and Shemekia Copeland. Half an hour before Walker stepped onstage, attendees gathered upstairs for wine, cocktails and food.
Fifteen minutes later, the theater was packed. Walker and his band stepped out onstage and started off the night with “Fire in the Belly.” With lead guitar, stand-up bass, drums and three-part harmony, the trio told gritty stories accompanied by crashing instrumentals.
Most of Walker’s songs were upbeat crowd-pleasers. However, four songs into the set, he picked up his acoustic guitar to play his slow tune “Grab Ahold of Me.” As the song ended, the crowd roared crowd.
Lastly, the band jammed out with the rest of the crowd to “More Days Like This.” The audience clapped, sang, and swayed back and forth. The band left the stage to a standing ovation.
Nadel stepped out onstage to introduce Keith Price, Focus on Teens president, for a few words.
“I got a call at about 10 o’clock in the morning that one of the kids was arrested in class because he’s homeless, he’s a foster child and he’s severely autistic, and he has behavior problems,” Price said. “He was in jail for two days, [and they] sent him back in women’s clothes. By 2 o’clock, that kid had enough money to buy a wardrobe from Joseph A. Bank.”
Once Price left, auctioneers Dean McCurry and Steve Hopson took the stage for a lively auction. Up for bid were things such as a dinner with Nadel, a jazz cruise and a hunting trip. Proceeds went to Focus on Teens.
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Copeland and her band came out hot right out of the gate with wailing slide guitar solo and soulful vocals backed by heavy-bottomed bass and crashing drums.
During Copeland’s emotional, dynamic performance, she stirred the pot with a song about people who love God but hate everyone else. Her thumping gospel song, “Somebody Else’s Jesus,” had fans laughing and rocking back and forth in their seats. In the middle of her set, she spoke about her standoff with a little girl who did not believe Copeland was a blues singer.
“She said, ‘You can’t be a blues singer 'cause they’re big and fat, and you’re just medium,’” Copeland explained. “I had two things to say to that little girl: ‘thank you’ and ‘thank You,’” she joked.
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At one point, Copeland was left onstage with one of her guitar players to perform a song about her dad called “Beat Up Old Guitar.” When the band returned, Copeland grabbed her tambourine and got right back to jamming. Nearly everyone in the audience stood up to dance for the last song, “Stand Up and Testify.”
Overall, the night was packed with good tunes, good intentions and good people looking to leave help homeless adolescents. Nadel said when he first partnered with Price, he had no idea the number of homeless teens was so high and that they could not go to shelters. Price identified a hole in the safety net, Nadel said.
Price said Focus on Teens has a huge reach.
“We have 22 drop-in centers," he said. "Nobody has anything close to that. So we can reach a great many kids, and I won’t sleep till I get them all.”