Friday, 16 May 2008

My first...

OK, so it's been a while, I've been away & not writing was my first trip to the US and I was lucky enough to visit DC and NY. I have to say I'm in love with DC - please go if you get the chance. My intention was to see loads of gigs but I got a bit distracted - I did however, manage to see Bilal at the 9.30 Club. The lovely Hezekiah was good enough to put us on the list and we went down with him to see what for me was a night of many firsts. I'd never seen Bilal before, I'd always thought he might be a bit self-indulgent and drug addled live, and also the Jazz Cafe ain't cheap - no excuse I know but I won't make that mistake again. It was really interesting to see a live show in a city that's populations ethnic background is over 50% black (Chocolate City)...I don't know if it's the history, the geography, or the spirit of the place that gave birth to the careers of so many jazz musicians, soul artists and now a burgeoning hip hop scene, but the air was thick with an inherent soulfulness.

It's really unfortunate that Americans have rubbish camera phones and this is the only footage I can find of the show online. He extended every song to about 15 minutes and the band didn't really know what was going on - but quite frankly who's going to notice when Robert Glasper is your keyboard player?! Needless to say it was amazing. One of my favourite moments was Glasper playing a beautiful solo intro - and just at the point of silence and tension where the singing would normally begin - the audience started cheering and Bilal pissed himself laughing. Three times. The thing I enjoyed most was actually the audience. I've never heard it sound rich and beautiful before when the performer holds the mic out and asks you to shout 'yeah!', I'd never heard a soul clap so rhythmic and erm, in time, and I've never heard the voices around me rise to sing along (to songs like Call Me, Make Me Over, Soul Sista and Sometimes) and felt like I was part of a gospel choir. Suffice it to say I'm a huge Bilal fan now (but a bigger fan of DC). Here's Pete Kuzma & Bilal's stunning version of High and Dry from Exit Music, (click the link to listen to & buy the whole album) the Radiohead tribute compliation from 2006 ft Sa-Ra, Osunlade & Erro, Cinematic Orchestra, Matthew Herbert etc etc in case you don't have it - click here to download the song.
I was also lucky enough to meet some other wonderful artists that night - Grammy nominee Ledisi who came and shut the show down with a voice like fire, DC soul queen Wayna, and did I mention Robert Glasper and Bilals' band?!!! Big thanks go to Hez for hooking it up - and if you haven't checked it here is Looking Up, his duet with Bilal. If you look closely he told me that Bilal is actually holding his 8 year old sons hand in the video, the lady in green is Hez's mum, and one of the blokes walking along is Robert Glasper.
I apologise - you will not be able to stop singing this all day.


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