Harry Belafonte has been touring since late May and he's only halfway home. Why so long? "Greed," he joked at Wolf Trap last night.
Whatever the real reason, it's good that Belafonte is on the road. His show has evolved into a vibrant melange of festive rhythms, splendidly crafted harmonies, uninhibited singalongs, playful wit and pungent asides. In an age of trendily flamboyant concertizing, Belafonte is still very much his own man, and his performances remain a unique experience.
Calypso, of course, played a large role in the show, and Belafonte, backed by a superb 10-piece ensemble, effortlessly mixed West Indian tunes with folk, pop, R&B and even a reggae version of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." His genuinely distinctive baritone--darker and more resonant now but still intriguingly coarse around the edges--tinged everything he sang, and when he finally got around to blaring out "Day-O, Day-O," the crowd could hardly contain itself.
Belafonte's concerts have always provided a showcase for promising talent. Dianne Reeves is the latest beneficiary. A vocalist of great power and range, with a delivery firmly grounded in spirituals and gospel, she proved riveting at times.
Both are to return tonight.