Monday, January 28, 2008

I Love When It's My Way

Toshi Reagon and her band, Big Lovely, played four shows at Joe's from Thursday through last night, celebrating her birthday. She does this every year. Last night, the place was filled to overflowing as she brought her mother along to share the stage and had some good friends out in the crowd cheering her on.

If there's ever any doubt as to why Joe's Pub is better than your place, I submit as evidence last night's final show.

First of all, Toshi's mother is Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Sweet Honey in The Rock and possessor of a voice and presence that commands attention, respect and surrender to the spirit. At one point during the encore, as the backup singers started up a gospel prayer and the band caught the groove and settled in for the journey, Bernice raised her eyebrows, lifted her hand and brought it down, stopping everyone in their tracks. I don't know if the tempo was wrong or the key didn't suit, but what wasn't right then sure was a moment later when they started again. I swear, The Public Theater may have levitated.

Secondly, you know you're at something special when Toshi introduces a song by telling a tale about how she was leaving a theater with Toni Morrison this one time and Ms. Morrison said that sometimes she wrote lyrics and Toshi said "send some to me" and anyway the next song is written by Toni and Toshi. Yes. That's special.

And then, after the song, Toshi gives a shout out to Toni Morrison who is sitting in the booth with Shanta and Bill right below Pascal, Lauren, Bernie and I and Toni points to Toshi and shouts "I write for you!" and Lauren practically faints.

Stephanie McKay played in the band for all four shows and on the third night she and Toshi duetted on a song that may have been the sexiest thing I've ever heard outside a bedroom.

Finally, Toshi herself is a force of nature. She's a diva, a concerned citizen, a voice in the wilderness, the leader of the pack and I will go anywhere anytime to be a part of the music and energy when she's standing at the center.

Happy Birthday, Toshi.


Anonymous Jonny said...

What with being a fan of Toni Morrison, Sweet Honey in the Rock (thanks, Jeff) and birthdays, I really wish I could have been there ...


8:09 PM  

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