Tens of thousands of people come to Indianapolis each year to participate in the Circle City Classic college football game.
For many, however, the weekend’s fun begins a day before the game with the Friday evening Classic Cabaret concert.
First presented during the late 1980s, the Cabaret has served as a major part of Classic festivities. Many legendary artists have been able to entertain Indianapolis audiences thanks to the Cabaret.
“We have been very happy to deliver quality entertainment during the Cabaret throughout the years,” said Vernon Williams, a spokesman for Indiana Black Expo (IBE), which has oversight of Circle City Classic. “More importantly, we have consistently received a positive response from concert attendees.”
Williams said IBE is especially looking forward to this year’s concert lineup, which will include R&B/soul band Frankie Beverly and Maze, and R&B vocalists Keith Sweat and Lalah Hathaway.
The concert will take place on Friday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Frankie Beverly and Maze, which was formed in Philadelphia, is best known for classics from the 1970s and ‘80s such as “Joy and Pain,” “Happy Feelings” and “Running Away.”
Sweat, popular for his high energy live shows, enjoyed a series of Top 10 R&B hits between the late 1980s and ‘90s, including “Make It Last,” “I Want Her,” “I’ll Give All My Love to You,” “Nobody” and “Twisted.”
Hathaway is known for her unique alto voice and is the daughter of legendary musician Donny Hathaway. She has built her own successful career on the strength of favorites like 1990’s “Heaven Knows” and 2004’s “Forever, For Always, For Love.”
Over the years the Cabaret has presented artists such as the Temptations, the Gap Band, Betty Wright, Lakeside, Rose Royce, the Dramatics, New Birth, Rick James, Mary J. Blige, Jeffery Osborne, Bell Biv DeVoe and Tony Toni Tone, among many others.
The Cabaret is known to feature veteran artists that have been performing, recording and touring for several years.
Event promoter Geno Shelton is charged with booking artists that will not only meet Classic’s budget, but also have the potential to pack the Indiana Convention Center.
“In addition to availability, we look at the popularity of the artists and the response they have received in this region over time,” Shelton said. “We have to also ensure that their performance will not only provide a good show, but also match the focus of Circle City Classic and its demographics.”
Shelton noted that although Circle City Classic events attract participants of all ages, its strongest and most consistent support comes from Black college alumni between the ages of 35 and 50. Therefore, most of the artists booked for the Cabaret cater to that age group because they are more likely to buy tickets and help Classic reach its goal of providing resources to fund the education of students.
Shelton noted that attendees are in for something new during the Cabaret, thanks to the completion of the Indiana Convention’s expansion earlier this year.
“They will be able to enjoy the show in the new and improved halls of the convention center,” Shelton said in the enthusiastic tone he uses to promote events on radio. “Having more space and more comfortable seating is always helpful.”
Tickets for the Circle City Classic Friday Night Cabaret are $49.99 to $54.99 and can be purchased at the Lucas Oil Stadium Ticket Office, Ticketmaster Outlets, or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.