"Nowhere was that more evident than with the night's “headliners” (if you can single one amazing group out). Living Colour stole the show with their two songs, “Power of Soul” and “Cross Town Traffic” to end the night. Their rampant and frantic energy, combined with the metal elements and incredible musical skill and Glover's powerful, wailing vocals, almost literally brought the house down. Glover and bassist Doug Wimbish fled the stage and entered the tent where all the donors were seated, hopping up on tables and causing havoc. It was an amazing display of raw, musical passion, and everyone in attendance ate it up.
But no other group was going to go as crazy as Living Colour did. Their set was unique to them, just as each set was to that particular artist."
When talented musicians and groups like The Roots, Living Colour, Wyclef Jean, G. Love, John Scofield, and more all got together on the same bill Tuesday night to pay tribute to guitarist Jimi Hendrix in Central Park, the only thing that could have possibly ruined the experience was inclement weather. The rock gods were kind, though, and the scattered showers that were in the forecast steered clear of Rumsey Playfield. That elicited this classic Jimi Hendrix phrase to kick off the evening: “Excuse me, while I kiss the sky,” and it could not have been more fitting.
The 2012 SummerStage Gala, presented by City Parks Foundation, brought together artists from different backgrounds and genres to honor Jimi Hendrix, who was born 70 years ago. The event kicked off the 2012 SummerStage season, which features over 100 free music, theatre, comedy, and children's programming. A few things made the pairing of theme and artists so perfect.
First, every performer possessed a high level of “cool.” Jimi Hendrix was one cool customer, and you can't do Hendrix's work justice without bringing some cool to the performance. That's not a concern with groups like the Roots, Soulive, and artists like Keller Williams and Wyclef Jean.
Second, the musicianship has to be strong. One of the great aspects of Jimi Hendrix's music is how natural it sounds while also being technical. The caliber of musicians on hand: Karl Densen, John Scofield, G. Love, Living Colour, and the rest added tastefully and sounds versions of Hendrix classics that didn't leave any of the soul, funk, or jamming behind. This was music being played at a very high level.
Third, the vocal component being brought to Jimi's music brought an entirely different dimension to the night of covers. Everyone can agree that Hendrix was a virtuosic guitarist, but his singing definitely left something to be desired. He got by with his voice, but it never really wowed me. When you great vocalists like Bebel Gilberto, Amel Larrieux, Captain Kirk Douglas from The Roots, and Living Colour's Corey Glover, and combine that with the classic sounds of Hendrix, you get some truly groovy music.
Finally, the diverse group of artists led to some very interesting interpretations of Hendrix's music. With just two songs each, groups could afford to take some risks and really let loose during their time on stage.
Nowhere was that more evident than with the night's “headliners” (if you can single one amazing group out). Living Colour stole the show with their two songs, “Power of Soul” and “Cross Town Traffic” to end the night. Their rampant and frantic energy, combined with the metal elements and incredible musical skill and Glover's powerful, wailing vocals, almost literally brought the house down. Glover and bassist Doug Wimbish fled the stage and entered the tent where all the donors were seated, hopping up on tables and causing havoc. It was an amazing display of raw, musical passion, and everyone in attendance ate it up.
But no other group was going to go as crazy as Living Colour did. Their set was unique to them, just as each set was to that particular artist. All of the covers brought out the intricacies and nuances of each performer. Jazz guitarist John Scofield, on the night after becoming a grandfather, blazed a trail with his precise and grueling solos during “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze.” The Roots brought their blend of rock and funk, along with ?uestlove's pounding drums and Captain Kirk Douglas' winding guitar. Amel Larrieux and Bebel Gilberto added a feminine touch and strong, powerful vocal qualities to their covers.
Wyclef used his teeth during his rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” to the delight of everyone. House band and performers in their own right Soulive played tightly in collaboration with several musicians and styles. Karl Densen's pulsing sax solos “Third Stone From the Sun” rang through the night air. Keller Williams and G. Love (minus Special Sauce) brought their own quirky vocals and guitar-playing to their covers, putting unique and light twists on classics like “Castles Made of Sand” and “If 6 Was 9.” The songs and the artists brought out the best in each other, whether it be vocally or instrumentally.
Most importantly, everyone had an amazing time doing it. It was impossible to wipe the smiles off the performers on stage, as most felt privileged to be playing these songs for people. It all culminated in a group performance of “All Along the Watchtower” that could have stretched on forever, but unfortunately had to end.
Here is the complete Song List from the evening:
Wyclef Jean – “The Star-Spangled Banner”
The Roots – “Have You Ever Been To Electric Lady Land” & “Fire”
Bebel Gilberto – “Little Wing” & “Wind Cries Mary”
G. Love (ft. Soulive) – “If 6 Was 9” & “Ain't No Telling”
Soulive – “Manic Depression” & “Changes”
Keller Williams (ft. Soulive) – “Castles Made of Sand” & “Up in the Skies”
Amel Larrieux (ft. Soulive) – “May This Be Love” & “Angel”
John Scofield (ft. Soulive) – “Hey Joe” & “Purple Haze”
Karl Densen – “Spanish Castle Magic” & “Third Stone From the Sun”
Living Colour – “Power of Soul” & “Cross Town Traffic” Group Encore (minus Wyclef) – “All Along the Watchtower”