Friday was a bittersweet night at State Farm Arena, but “Happy Feelin’s” were still in the air as R&B music icon Frankie Beverly performed his last show in Atlanta, with his band Maze.

The show served as the kick-off to the iconic group’s “I Wanna Thank You Farewell Tour.” The series of concerts mark the legendary soul singer’s retirement from a career spanning more than five decades.

Joined by El DeBarge and Chaka Khan as opening acts, Beverly stepped on stage around 10 p.m., wearing his signature white baseball cap, a V-neck sweater and white pants. The massive crowd was full of fans also dressed in white outfits — from cowboy hats and polo shirts to linen suits and alligator shoes.

Fans listen to performances Friday, March 22, 2024, at Frankie Beverly & Maze's final Atlanta show at State Farm Arena. Opening acts included El DeBarge and Chaka Khan.  (Kymani Culmer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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The crowd crooned along to classic songs like “We Are One,” “Running Away,” “Back in Stride,” “Golden Time of Day,” “Happy Feelin’s” and “Joy and Pain.” The feel-good anthems were sang so loudly from the audience they almost drowned out the veteran performer’s warm baritone voice.

“I’m blessed that all of you know all of these songs,” Beverly, 77, told the crowd.


Couples at State Farm Arena slow-danced together in the aisles to jams like “While I’m Alone,” and “I Can’t Get Over You” during his hourlong set.

Attendees even line-danced from their seats to “Before I Let Go,” Beverly’s signature tune from the 1981 album “Live in New Orleans.” The song was covered by Beyoncé in 2019.

“His music makes you feel so relaxed, happy and joyful,” said concertgoer Simonia Porter, who said she’s seen Maze featuring Frankie Beverly live 25 times since moving to Atlanta in 1986.

“The songs are uplifting and make you laugh. It’s full of good energy that makes you want to get up and start cleaning up.”

Some traveled from other cities to catch the tour’s first show. Toby Bradley, who saw her first Frankie Beverly and Maze show in 1984, flew in from Houston. She said she also plans to also attend the April 13 Houston show at Toyota Arena.

“This was a pretty awesome show,” she said. “It’s timeless music that sounds like it just came out.”

A native of Philadelphia, Beverly moved to San Francisco in 1970 to pursue a career in the music business.

Frankie Beverly and his guitar at the Atlanta Jazz Festival in May 1978. The 71-year-old Philadelphia native is still a regular visitor to Atlanta's stages.

Credit: Joe Benton

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Credit: Joe Benton

His band, then named Raw Soul, opened for late singer Marvin Gaye, who is credited for discovering them at an early live performance. Gaye is also said to have suggested the band’s name be changed to Maze.

Signing a recording contract with Capitol Records in 1976, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly released their self-titled debut album a year later. It featured their signature logo: a seven-fingered-hand with spiraled prints similar to a maze.

The band’s sound connected with Black listeners. It would be their first of nine albums certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling more than 500,000 copies.

Larkin Arnold, creator and executive at Capitol Records’ Black music division, said he was impressed with their demographic-defying musical range.

“They’re not a typical Black band,” Arnold said. “Their music is not really funk or R&B, so a lot of people at the company didn’t think they would be successful because they don’t fit neatly into any genre.”

In addition to his role as the lead vocalist, Beverly has been Maze’s primary producer and songwriter. His song lyrics are generally themed around romance, unity and positivity, and the group’s music became the soundtrack in many Black households and at various Black social gatherings.

Fans, many wearing white, celebrate with Frankie Beverly & Maze during their final Atlanta show on their farewell tour at State Farm Arena on Friday, March 22, 2024. (Kymani Culmer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Maze featuring Frankie Beverly released their last album of new material in 1993.

During the farewell show, Atlanta native Clay Collins told The AJC he remembered hearing the group’s music at a family barbecue in 1978, when he was 10 years old. Wearing a tattoo of the band’s hand logo on his left arm, he said he’s seen the band live more than 20 times.

“He’s my favorite artist of all-time because the music’s vibe and energy speaks to my soul,” Collins said, while unfolding a freshly autographed vinyl copy of “Live in New Orleans” at the post-show meet-and-greet.

Despite their popularity, the soul band never had a high-charting single on mainstream pop music charts, receiving almost no mainstream radio airplay, or major music awards in their heyday.

“Back in the day, radio didn’t want to play Black records anyway,” Arnold said. “It was a segregated situation, which was a tragedy to the public.”

Being overlooked by pop and rock audiences never slowed down the band’s momentum. Their cult following allowed them to actively headline tours and festivals.

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly performs during the Essence Music Festival at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, July 5, 2009. Maze has closed out the annual festival since its inception in 1994.

Credit: Patrick Semansky

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Credit: Patrick Semansky

In 2010, Frankie Beverly and Maze received one of their first Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Trumpet Awards in Atlanta. Beverly was also recognized in early 2024 with a Living Legend award at the Urban One Honors, and a Lifetime Achievement award at the NAACP Image Awards.

The band, which will continue to perform following Beverly’s retirement, said it is changing its name to Maze Honoring Frankie Beverly following the tour.

“It’s been a long time coming because he never fully got the attention he deserved,” Arnold said. “I’m glad he’s getting the recognition because he’s a fine example of what a good man should be.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens closed the Atlanta performance by presenting Beverly with the city’s highest honor, the Phoenix Award. City Councilwoman Marci Collier Overstreet followed with a proclamation.

“You can’t really compare him to anybody else because artists have come and gone, but he was still out hitting the road in 2024,” Collins said.

“I hate to see him go, but his body of work speaks for itself. He deserves to retire because he’s done a good job.”