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Friday, June 11, 2010

Distant Relatives

Distant Relatives ~ June 8, 2010. Warehouse Live, Houston, Texas.

I should go ahead and warn you that you won't get extra points for counting the number of times I say the words "great", "amazing", "breathtaking" and "damned perfect" throughout this entry. I'll say it alot, because honestly, there are few ways to explain just how damned perfect and amazing this show was. Warehouse Live is a venue known (and marginally respected) for presenting performances that just barely skirt the norm or completely bathe in obscurity and for this...I thank them. Bringing the Distant Relatives Tour and depositing it into my lap, deserves at least one sacrificial offering of a dreadlock or something equally significant.
Starting the night with Nneka laid the perfect foundation for a show packed with talent. If you'll recall, I shouted her out in a previous post, providing some groundwork on how her music can chill you out, wake you up and make you think. The live performance? In a word...Haunting. The lilt of her voice occasionally gives way to pronounced proclamations of ferocious intent and with lyrics from "Heartbeat" like:
You sold your soul to the evil and the lust/And the passion and the money and you/And the same ones die, and people hunger for talking/Suffer under civilized damn robbers but they stabled us...
Can't you feel my heart is beating?

Typically, a show "opener" has a snowball's chance in Tiger's pants of being heard, less still, remembered. Nneka can write the manual on how it's done (even with a typically apathetic Houston audience). The simple route, would have been to provide a loud, "let me play it rough like the big boys", screech heavy show, but this is no ordinary Lady. Sailing through her playlist, Nneka alternated between a slightly raised voice and a whisper, but somehow managed to quiet the testerone heavy audience. More than once, this writer overheard strong, chest beatingly masculine voices asking respectfully, "Who is this?" "How do you spell it?" and one particularly impressed, yet physically imposing young man growl, "I'm coppin' this in the morning!"

And then there were Nas & Damien Marley...

A simple backdrop set featuring images of Damian and Nas may have coaxed the crowd into a laid back haze (*ahem* amongst other things). This was QUICKLY disrupted in the most virulent of fashions with the help of the Flag Bearer and the background singers/dancers. Allow me a small pause to acknowledge that most don't view a concert/show/performance as one entire entity, I can be guilty of this the fact that I (and my decidedly heterosexual male companion) not only remembered, but re~enacted their steps over the course of the next three days, celebrates two of the fiercest female dancers I've seen in a minute and should provide ample evidence of how lasting of an impression they made.

Attacking the stage with a frenetic, yet focused energy, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones and Damian Robert Nesta "Jr. Gong" Marley appeared to share, disperse, redistribute and thrive from each other as much as the audience. Their give and take appeared so seamless and genuine that at some point during the show they began to (more) physically resemble each other, while issuing bar after bar of verbal gymnastics, assaults and (here my heart swoons) true hip hop. Amidst generous hoots, yells, fist pumping ("no situation"), and exclamations, Nas and Marley rang an alarm that had nothing to do with dancing, candy paint or Barbies.

The playlist (from "Patience" to "Nah Mean" to "Strong Will Continue" read like liner notes and even those in attendance who were uninitiated seem to hear the message loud and clear. The dramatic staccato delivery of Dispear seemed to be a perfect end to an amazing show...
The Master of the Masses/One has power/The other one lacks it/Guns are power/Controlled by assets/Owned by financial forecasters/Who are the Masters?


Each artist, no doubt affording the other a much deserved break, dug into their OWN crates. To prevent asphyxiation, I'll relieve the tension...Damian's JamRock performance engaged an entire Warehouse of fans, singing, shouting and sweating along! And a poignant rendition of Redemption Song inspired one of many "sing~a~long" moments. And I was gladly, (even gently) shuffled and shoved when Nas exploded on stage shouting, "They SHOOTIN'!!!! I made ya look..." and "One Mic" provided one of at least 2 dozens highlights to the evening.
Into the humid late night, an audience spilled out onto 813 Saint Emanuel Street, screaming over ringing ears, smiling from ear to ear and carrying on heartfelt hugs and conversations with complete strangers. Distant Relatives...indeed.