Earlier in the week, rtb posted about two upcoming free concerts. The last few summers I have not seen the many free concerts available to us in NYC and I thought I have to take advantage of at least one this year. What’s Going On: A Marvin Gaye Tribute was a celebration of Gaye’s classic 1971 concept album performed entirely by women. Felicia Collins put together a great band and called several wonderful singers.
During the announcements, Chuck Schumer came out wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He made several puns using titles from Marvin Gaye songs but it was not going to be a night of most of those songs.
peg and I were both on line for the show but at different gates. I found three good seats right away and she came over. rtb met us just as DJ Natasha Diggs started. I have suffered through so many bad DJs that I had forgotten what a good DJ sounds like. She started up slowly and built up a great 50-minute set. rtb was dancing near the start and for “Got to be Real” I could not dance while in my seat any longer and I stood up too as did peg. There was Prince, Stevie Wonder, and lots of other old school in her set.
All I knew about the evening was who one guest was so I was interested to see who else would be on stage. When the band came out I immediately recognized Collins from the World’s Most Dangerous Band from David Letterman’s show. And the percussionist Valerie Naranjo, who played vibes at a performance where I sang with the NYC Streetsingers many years ago. She has not aged a year. The other band members were Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), Kim Clarke (bass), Deah Love-Harriott (keyboards), Bette Sussman (piano), Alexa Tarantino (saxophone/flute), and another horn player whose name I cannot find listed anywhere. The three back-up singers, who also played percussion, were Tabitha Fair, La Tanya Hall, and Nicki Richards.
The singers, in order of first appearance (the songs were sung in the same order as the album), were Siedah Garrett [“What’s Going On” “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”], Kennedy (“What’s Happening Brother”), Catherine Russell [“Flyin’ High (In the Friendly Sky)”], Kecia Lewis (“Save the Children” “Wholy Holy”), Toshi Reagon (“God is Love” with Catherine Russell; “Right On”), and Collins [“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”].
Everyone did right by the songs. All the band members got solos and I was loving Clarke’s “church hat.” All the singers blew me away with their interpretations – especially Reagon.
It is almost 50 years and What’s Going On is as relevant today as it was then.
By Carene Lydia Lopez