The Washington Post

In concert: Van Hunt at the Birchmere


Van Hunt has had recordings in limbo but is still a dyamic live performer, as shown at the Birchmere on Tuesday. (All photos by Josh Sisk/FTWP)

Hunt is a journeyman and an anomaly in modern black music, but also a captivating example of how a bold lane choice can bring rewards away from the spotlight. His last official album dropped in 2006 yet he can hold audiences rapt with unfamiliar material from demo and bootleg releases. He wears the influence of Curtis Mayfield, Bootsy Collins and The Ohio Players comfortably and sincerely, yet it never feels derivative. And when he evokes The Police, The Ramones or David Bowie, that sounds just as natural.

All of those elements were rolled into an unveiling of his new album “What Were You Hoping For?”, which cranks up the amplifier on the rock flirtations of his previous work and takes more risks. But rather then trot out this long awaited project wholesale, Hunt sprinkled the new tunes in with his best known hits as well the stage experimentations that don’t find their way onto recordings. And the recordings fans thought they knew were peppered with embellishments. “Hello, Goodbye” zipped along in marked contrast to the George Duke funk tempo on Hunt’s 2004 debut, pushed by the aggressive pocket of drummer Ruthie Price. “Character” segued into a funky shuffle that was equal parts Meters and J.B.’s, with some jazz fusion pyrotechnics from keyboardist Peter Dyer.



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