Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LIVE VIDEO & Concert Review: Esperanza Spalding Wows Minneapolis with Performance of the Radio Music Society

Sunday night (09/30/2012) I saw Esperanza Spalding & the Radio Music Society perform at the State Theater in Minneapolis. I received my ticket as a gift, which was very nice to begin with!

The concert was great, what a terrific performance. Esperanza Spalding is a superb bassist on both electric and acoustic bass, and has a lovely, strong soprano voice. It was reported that Esperanza's friend and mentor Prince was in attendance, and that his Purpleness was "blown away," by the concert, as was the rest of the audience.

As a prop, a giant cut out of a boom box is on stage. The lights of the radio dial come on and we hear the sound of someone tuning up and down the dial, with sounds of music and static. Soon, Esperanza's band, dubbed the Radio Music Society for this tour, begins playing some funky instrumental music. A few moments later Esperanza herself steps out, dancing and playing her bass, and she introduces the band members at the beginning of show. They perform a Thad Jones tune, Us.

Esperanza proceeded to perform all the songs from the Radio Music Society album.

The first album song the band launches into after that is one of my personal favorites from the Radio Music Society album, Hold On, a big band -sounding song about obsessive love. Esperanza is in great form on upright bass.

Next she launches into her brilliant rendition of Stevie Wonder's I Can't Help It, which shows off Esperanza's bouncy bass guitar work. It is her best bass guitar song both on the CD and in this concert, but her electric bass playing was superb through out the show. She never ceases to amaze bass players by her ability to sing and play complex bass lines at the same time. Watching her it appears she left no note on her bass untouched throughout the night, she knows her away around the neck of her fretless Fender Jazz Bass.

Her virtuosity on upright bass was displayed on Smile Like That, a song about a relationship coming to an end, and on Vague Suspicions, a song about the war on terror and drone bombing. Although Esperanza has always been able to play fast and fluid, drawing comparisons to Charles Mingus, she seems to me that she has picked up some speed since the last two times I have seen her. She was playing some very Stanley-Clarke-ish type solos on her acoustic bass.

One of the most moving moments of the evening was the performance of Black Gold, Esperanza's song about African-American heritage and identity. She has said she wrote the song with the idea that mothers might sing it to their children. In her introduction for the song, she engaged in a banter with vocalist Chris Turner and she spoke of how African-Americans must find their affirmation within themselves, and not from the world. This garnered some "Amens" and "that's right!" from the audience. I dare say that we were on the brink of "having church" at that point of the show, the spirit was very positive and uplifting. Black Gold has a gospel feel to it, with gospel-tinged organ playing and vocal harmonies. This is the song that I believe will be associated with Esperanza 30 and 40 years from now. I keep searching Youtube to see if a church choir has covered it yet. Chris Turner trade lines with Esperanza on the song, and a local reviewer compared his voice to Stevie Wonder.
Esperanza's stage about 13 minutes before the show
Esperanza shared a strong social justice message with audience this night. She let her audience know of her advocacy of the Innocence Project, which tries to free people unjustly imprisoned. Her sad but beautiful song, Land of the Free, is about Cornelius Dupree, an innocent man who spent 30 years in prison. This song also has a gospel feel. Esperanza has a brilliant lyric in the song about Dupree being "Five fifths of a man, but the judge only seeing three," an unmistakable reference to the U.S. Constitution, which in its original form held black people as being only three-fifths human beings.

Endangered Species is a Wayne Shorter song, originally an instrumental, for which Esperanza wrote lyrics about the precarious nature of human beings and other life on the earth in light of the environmental crisis. This is yet another song in which Esperanza turns in a great bass guitar performance.

The last song of the regular set was the theme song for the Radio Music Society project, Radio Song. As the band began playing the song, Esperanza taught the audience the chorus, and she encouraged the audience to sing throughout the song. It was her "Paul McCartney/Hey Jude" moment, and a fitting close to the set.

For an encore, Esperanza and back up singer and trumpet-player Leala Cyr dueted on InĂștil Paisagem, accompanied only by Esperanza's upright bass.

Esperanza is an excellent performer. Not only is she an extremely talented vocalist and bass player, but has a compelling stage presence. She talks a lot to the audience and gives often humorous introductions to the songs. One of the natural beauties of the music world, she exudes a sexy wholesomeness, smiling often, raising up her arms for emphasis or to encourage the audience to sing, swinging and dancing gently with her bass back and forth across the stage.

I certainly enjoyed the show, it was one of the most entertaining concerts I have ever been to. If you have a chance, try and catch Esperanza Spalding and the Radio Music Society. You will be in for a treat.

Here are the remaining Tour Dates:

Radio Music Society Tour.

Esperanza signs autographs in the lobby of the State Theater, Minneapolis
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After the concert, Esperanza sat at the merchandise table and signed T-shirts, albums, CDs, and posters. I would guess about 100 fans took advantage of her accessibility. Of course, I was one of them (see picture), and I had both my vinyl and CD editions of the Radio Music Society signed. I have had the pleasure of meeting Esperanza three times, and I have never met a celebrity who is more friendly and grateful to her fans as Esperanza Spalding seems to be.

I have my album and CD signed 
Purchase Radio Music Society:
CD 
Deluxe Edition with CD/DVD
Vinyl
MP3

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So far, I have only found 3 videos from the performance on Youtube, and I have them posted here in a playlist:

1) Vague Suspicions
2) Cinnamon Tree
3) InĂștil Paisagem

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