Monday, March 21, 2011

Jazz in the Gardens part II (and The Isley Brothers)

You know, I have work in approximately seven hours. But, I'm a creature that does not need a whole lot of sleep to function. If I can get at least five hours, four at the minimum (anything less will just make me cranky), I'm good. So, I decided it was more important for me to sit down and tell you about tonight's experience in the Gardens.

Tonight completely and utterly made up for last night, in every way that it could. Even though right before I left for the concert, I discovered I had a flat tire, everything worked out. My roommates changed it for me (living with guys is not always a bad thing, though now that I've seen a flat tire changed for the second time, I know I could do it myself), and then I was out the door. I got there in time to see the remaining acts of the day: Musiq Soulchild, En Vogue, Gladys Knight, and The Isley Brothers, performing together for the first time in years.

I was geeked about tonight's performance because I really, really, really wanted to see The Isley Brothers. Like, when I talked about me not having grown up a Lauryn fan or non-fan in my last post, this is the opposite. I had no choice but to grow up a fan of the Isley Brothers, because they were a part of my childhood's musical lexicon. (I grew up on old school music, I really did.) Not only that, but I started listening to their music for real for real once I hit eighteen. (Here we go with this eighteen foolishness again, I know.)

Let me take this moment to take you on a quick trip back into time. Yes, like I mentioned in my other post, there were lots of things I learned during my eighteenth year of life, and a lot of those things had to do with my college ex. I distinctly remember one of the conversations we had, this one about music. I remember him saying that one of his favorite artists was The Isley Brothers, and I remember being in a state of shock... why would this Dominican man know anything about The Isley Brothers? I was so used to people not being familiar with the music I listened to (and mind you, I'm talking about other Black people my age sometimes not knowing anything about old school music) that the fact that he even had the slightest inkling as to who they were left me speechless. (Again, extraordinarily ordinary things have more power than you may think.) "For the Love of You" was one of his favorite songs, understandably so--it's one of my favorites too.

One night, he was being silly and made a video for me of him vibin to the song in his room. I can't really remember the video that well; I remember it in a still frame, like a picture in my mind, but I'll never forget how it made me feel. Even now, when I hear that song, sometimes at what seems like the most coincidental* moment, I stop and take a breath. Sometimes I shake my head, sometimes I shed one tear, sometimes I smile, but I always sing along. That song was always special to me, but now it is representative of so much more, of a moment in my life when I experienced true love, and maybe even got a little back, without even recognizing it.**

So anyhow, I hope it makes more sense as to why I was so excited to see The Isley Brothers.

Musiq Soulchild started off quite well, and every act got better and better. His falsetto and lower register were to die for (he has a very solid voice). En Vogue came out and rocked the damn stage something serious. It was so good to see Dawn Robinson in the place. They sounded great, and they took me back to my childhood. (I was a 90s kid, and En Vogue was definitely big.) Ms. Gladys Knight took the stage and started singing without introduction--she can do that. She's Gladys Knight. She reminded me of why I love old school so much. Her performance and voice were flawless. To me, she shamed Lauryn Hill. Gladys Knight has probably been performing longer than Lauryn Hill has been alive, and Gladys can still get on stage and take the audience there, sounding just like she did years ago. Lauryn's only been gone for a few years and already seems to have lost it.

Gladys sang some of my favorite songs, including "If I Were Your Woman" and "Neither One of Us" and I sang right along with her, even though my voice is practically gone thanks to Camp City Year last week. The audio during the performances was sooo much better than yesterday, and the crowd seemed liver today, even though I sat in the same area I did yesterday.

Then: The Isley Brothers. They started off strong with "Between the Sheets" and performed all the songs I can play on repeat (as I am right now): "For the Love of You"; "Hello It's Me"; "Groove With You"; "Voyage to Atlantis"; "Footsteps in the Dark"; "Make Me Say It Again Girl" and more. I'm not going to be able to tell you how I felt, because words can't really describe the place you go to when you're in the groove of a song, but it was amazing to hear the songs in person that I've stayed up all night listening to on myriad occasions; to hear the songs in person that I've played on full blast when driving around in my car late at night under a creamy white moon; to hear the songs in person that molded a young girl's heart around an ideal almost six years ago.

Ron Isley's voice is the most unique gift I've ever heard, and Ernie Isley on that electric guitar was some kind of spectacular. I swayed back and forth, and I sang along to every word, transcending higher and higher until the night was over and it was time for me to head back to my room, to prepare to head back to the real world tomorrow.

If I try to explain any further, I'll become repetitive and still not be able to say what I want to say, but just know that I am so thankful to have been able to get there. So thankful to have been able to see them all. So grateful.

I'm off to sing myself to sleep now.

driftin' on a memory
ain't noplace i'd rather be, than with you, yeah
lovin' you...

*--If you know Miss Malorie, you know she doesn't believe in coincidences. There are no such things.
**--before I recognize this moment/this moment will be gone... (John Mayer, "Clarity")

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