added: 13 Mar 2013
// gig date: 3 Mar 2013
reviewer: Owen Gillham
Ah, it's been a while... for a variety of reasons I haven't written anything for this wonderful publication for some time, but here I am, once again moved to exercise my finger tips in support of great music. What inspired me? The reasons are many and varied, but my first outing following my impromptu sabbatical is in honour of a very special live performance.
The 3rd March 2013 saw jazz scholar and vocal gymnast, Bobby McFerrin, perform two shows at London's Barbican in support of a forthcoming record entitled "Spirit You All" - a collection of music inspired by the spirituals his father used to sing. Obviously a deeply personal project, McFerrin made clear throughout that, although his household was infused with classical musicians during his youth, his musical upbringing was nothing if not diverse - during the performance he spoke of his interest in jazz, blues, gospel and even his surprising affinity for bluegrass music... but to be honest, the history was secondary to the awesome and surprising (given its inherent subtlety) power of McFerrin's performance.
Accompanied by a group of musicians drawn from previous musical collaborations, (Wynton Marsalis' drummer, a guitarist well versed in country blues, a stunning multi-instrumentalist, his daughter, Madison) McFerrin was captivating throughout his performance. As you would expect, the trademark body percussion and uber-precise vocals were abundant, but counterpointed by a clear love for the spirituals and gospel songs McFerrin was so keen to share. In fact, the poetry was thrust to the forefront of almost every song, drawing the audience into a blissful, hopeful blanket of sound and words that was clearly intended as food for the soul.
A gritty blues (complete with amusing 'old blues singer mumbling'), followed by glorious gospel, followed by the most beautiful version of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" that I have ever heard... every moment of this two hour concert was a heart melting exploration of something exceptional. Should you have the opportunity to see McFerrin during this tour, you would be well advised not to pass it up. It feels a touch glib to describe a concert as 'life changing', but if any concert is likely to change you life, it will probably be this one!
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