The performers who took part in the "Hooked on Gospel" show at Bowie State College Wednesday evening didn't have much of an audience to work with, which wasn't surprising since the location of the concert, commemorating Black History Month, was changed at the last moment. But the hundred or so people who attended were on their feet, singing, cheering, clapping and praising the Lord by show's end.
Although Pop Staples and the Barrett Sisters were the headliners, even newcomers Mike Hayward and Calvin Bridges, a couple of powerful balladeers, sounded a joyful note. So did two promising, if overly flamboyant, instrumentalists: saxophonist Arthur Scales and trumpeter Rod McGaha. Better yet was the dynamic performance by veteran vocalist Alda Denise Mitchell, whose rich alto was firmly rooted in church choral music.
The real highlights, though, came at the end of the show. For starters, Staples proved that his light tenor voice and laconic delivery remain as expressive as ever. His all-too-brief set touched on blues, soul and gospel music and included a lengthy but artfully rendered antidrug message. The Barrett Sisters capped the show with a rollicking, jubilant set, as each member of the trio vocally reached for the skies while the others (and the audience) shouted encouragement and hallelujahs.