The idiosyncratic rhythms of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers were on display at the 9:30 club Friday night. Having made a niche in modern reggae music, Marley and his troupe of siblings performed a 90-minute set reflecting both the glory of their late great Rastafarian father and a vibe that has afforded them a consistent place in popular music.
With Jamaica's flag hoisted on the left and the animated dancing of backup vocalists to the right, Ziggy began by nonchalantly taking his position center stage, jamming guitar licks and then segueing into the group's newest single, "Beautiful Day." The song's airy tone suggested the comfortable feel of the night and was underscored with a reinterpretation of the Bob Marley classic "Natural Mystic." "All Day All Night," from the recent release "Spirit of Music," saw Stephen Marley at lead, masterfully capturing the audience with striking vocals, locks flailing and eyes tightly shut with conviction. Ziggy responded with an equally captivating rendition of "Africa Unite," the crowd raising Black Power fists instead of lighters throughout the song's duration.
Though the evening leaned heavily on the legacy of the Marleys' father, the band did intermittently emphasize new music. Ziggy eloquently cooed the catchy "Many Waters" and "Gone Away," but the tunes proved a bit pop-heavy for the audience--especially when interwoven with earlier works such as "Rainbow Country," "People Get Ready" and audience favorite "Tumblin' Down." The show ended with "Jah Will Be Done," from the new album, and a dancehall version of "Could You Be Loved," each representing pillars of the night's spiritually inclined performance.
--David Wall Rice
The blue and pink lights were so bright, the well-groomed performers so chipper and the air so hot that Steve Miller's appearance Friday night at Nissan Pavilion might have been mistaken for a theme park musical revue.
Truthfully, Miller's five-piece band (led by harmonica whiz Norton Buffalo), with its wireless mikes and instruments, did give a razor-sharp overview of his 33-year rockin' career. A large crowd assembled to soak up Miller's licks on "Jungle Love," "The Stake," "Take the Money and Run" and "The Joker," and he didn't disappoint them. Playing the same basics he did last August at Wolf Trap, Miller added an acoustic version of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" and K.C. Douglas's "Mercury Blues" (recently bowdlerized by Alan Jackson to sell Ford trucks).
While arguing with the group's flawless execution or his tasteful solos is useless, it would be nice to hear the Space Cowboy dig into one of his chestnuts (say, "Going to Mexico" or "Kow Kow Calqulator"), though he did offer a spirited "Livin' in the U.S.A." Assuredly, though, no one left the pavilion unsatisfied.
George Thorogood and the Destroyers contributed a set of trademark loud-'n'-raucous, Bo-Diddley-on-speed blues. Thorogood tore through material like "Move It On Over," "I Drink Alone," "Hip Shakin' Gramma" and "Get a Haircut." As he eloquently summarized: "Enough talk, let's boogie!"
Three decades ago, Edwin Hawkins and his siblings strutted out of their Oakland "Love Center" with a contemporary sound epitomized by the song "Oh Happy Day" that prompted church choirs to scrap their robes and hymnals.
Once castigated as spiritual renegades, today the Hawkinses are praised as musical pioneers, and Saturday night the group stopped at the National Church of God in Fort Washington as part of its 25th anniversary reunion tour.
"Hello, sound people. . . . Turn it up, God said make a joyful noise," yelled Walter Hawkins just before family members and a 17-voice ensemble began. For the next two hours, the Hawkins family avoided long instrumental sidebars and other antics to stretch out a concert and just served crisp harmony with robust soprano and tenor voices.
The Hawkinses have been called the spiritual equivalent of the Jackson 5. After "Oh Happy Day" went platinum in the 1970s, the family released a series of albums, all called "Love Alive." Then Edwin Hawkins, Walter Hawkins and Walter's wife, Tramaine Hawkins, embarked on solo careers with huge followings in the United States and Europe.
Now, despite a divorce, Walter and Tramaine appear to be musical soul mates and have been back onstage since the release of "Love Alive V: 25th Anniversary" last year. Also back on the same bus are Shirley Miller, Yvette Flunder and little sister Lynette Hawkins-Stephens.
After the Hawkins family had left the stage and the backup singers were in street clothes, the crowd refused to leave. Somehow Walter rounded up his voices and the group sprinted back onstage. "I'm past the stage of trying to do formal concerts," Walter Hawkins told the crowd. "I just want to have church."
--Hamil R. Harris
At Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday night, Widespread Panic, a band from Athens, Ga., displayed a willingness to jam as long, as loud--even as pointlessly--as any of the competition. The near-capacity crowd of " 'Spreadheads" was delirious over it.
Appearing to a thunderous ovation, the sextet eased into the first of two sets plus an encore that together would last some three hours. Led by the tangling guitars of singer John "J.B." Bell and Mike Houser and the elastic six-string bass of Dave Schools, Panic stirred a cocktail of R&B, country and blues via ZZ Top, chasing it with a potent shot of Southern fried boogie.
The first set was solid, especially a slinky version of "Sleeping Man," though the Don Henley lilt in Bell's voice occasionally rose a bit uncomfortably to the forefront. The second set got off to a crackling start with "Climb to Safety," transformed from its stilted studio incarnation.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which opened the evening, then joined the Panic for an interlude in which chaos mostly won out over communication. With 12 musicians fighting for space, it was mostly percussionists Todd Nance and Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz who came through the clearest, though the collective did manage to cohere long enough to lay a funky fracture on Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."
That was the evening in a nutshell: Panic enjoyed every second, driving the crowd's relentless dancing, and themselves, with a commitment to jamming. Sometimes, nothing else is important.