Highline Ballroom NYC
November 3rd, 2009
Highline Ballroom NYC
November 3rd, 2009
With the abundance of fluff being offered in music today, it is always a sublime gift to find artists who are worth their value and then some. Knowing full well that good music is not always at one's fingertips, as music connoisseurs we should be up to the search. Now and then an artist emerges onto the scene who makes you exhale and think, "Thank goodness!" At Highline Ballroom, the stage was set for two upcoming artists who are on that set path to giving you good soul: Heston and Laura Izibor.
Heston's disposition is extremely quiet and composed. He walked onstage, strapped his guitar to his torso and began the show with a melodic strum of the strings. From "Your Perfume" to the sweet-sounding "Sumthing In The Water," it was a consistently steady and mellow groove. Those who have heard Heston sing know that it was only natural for his performance to include a Marvin Gaye track. Citing Marvin as being a huge musical influence, Heston's husky voice dripped with familiarity on the first note of "Sexual Healing." And so his set progressed, with the heavy-hearted "No Way, No How." His painful repetitive cries of â€˜no way' echoed throughout the venue. Not one sound was heard from the patrons; everyone listening attentively to Heston sing about the loss of his baby leaving him. It was beautiful and evoked goosebumps.
The mention of Hestion's BET J Best Underground Artist nomination drew a great round of applause from the crowd, Heston thanked everyone for supporting his work. He then introduced his upcoming sophomore release, Warm Human, Cold World, performing the title track. With lyrics like, "...maybe you'll see in me what you need..." it was enough to wet everyone's palette for the project. Heston was born in the Caribbean on the island of Dominica, and West Indian roots provided the perfect intro to one of the most beloved West Indian singers ever - Bob Marley - as he performed the classic, "Redemption Song." He had everyone signing in unison on the chorus, word for word. Not only did Heston cover the song, but he also added his own rhythm and sway to it, making it his own. Heston then ended his set with "Songbirds," his sensational tribute to his favorite artists, and a most fitting end to an amazing opening set. Throughout his performance, he was constantly asked by someone in the crowd, "What's your name? Say your name!" To which he replied, "Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Heston." Each time he responded, he left his mark on the audience for the rest of the night and unquestionably for a time to come.
Laura Izibor gracefully took to the stage to a round of applause. Asking New York, "How you doing tonight?" was all she needed to get her adrenaline going. But the question here is, was it enough to gear up the audience for what was to come? With that said, Laura opened with "What Would You Do." She jumped behind the keyboard for "I Don't Want You Back," but first explained the ins and outs of finally ending that relationship that was never going to make it in the first place. She shared a new track from her upcoming release Black Emerald. Laura performed a funky upbeat "Gracefully" and continued with the telling "Carousel." Laughingly recollecting that that she was 16 when she wrote the poignant "A Perfect World," she joked that she never realized how deep she was then. Laura worked the stage to and fro, mic in hand, or jumped behind the keyboard belting songs out. Yet, there was a void of some sort that was quite overpowering and felt as though it lingered throughout the show. By the time she covered the important topics of abusive relationships ("The Worst Is Over") and universal love ("If Tonight Is My Last"), it seemed Laura had all corners covered. But watching and waiting for the mostly still sea of bodies in the audience respond or react to the show, was a bit unnerving. Not until Laura finished did the audience respond or give off any energy. A bit perplexing, knowing how Laura can command a crowd.
The message behind "Shine" was dedicated to everyone in the crowd who lived their life with a little â€˜umph,' while the tale of being stuck in a stagnant relationship when you really should be loved, was played out in "Don't Stay." Laura's song of comfort and validation, "Mmm" (from the Why Did I Get Married soundtrack), was sincerely heartfelt. The whole venue was humming away solo and it seemed the audience awakened again. She also added how it was in the scene with her idol Jill Scott and that was a treat in itself for her. The end of Laura's set was near and it appeared the decision was made to up the ante a bit. The unmistakable piano riff to "From My Heart To Yours" infused everyone with a long-awaited surge of energy. Appropriately segueing into Mary J's "Real Love" brought the spot to the highest high of the set. Laura then ended the soiree with "Yes (I'll Be Your Baby)," a number that brought the crowd to a rousing standing ovation and applause.
Comparing Laura's last show to this one is like day and night. It went from a party atmosphere last time to a subdued and easygoing event this time around. Perhaps the seated venue needed to be on their feet for her to feel their energy and vice versa. At times the crowd seemed like it lost its bearings, yet recovered soon after. There is a clear-cut difference between a seated event and one that is standing room only. The latter is a give and take situation, where the artist is able to feed off of the audience. That initial vibe was clearly missing here. Being privy to what Laura can really do in contrast to what was given was unfortunate. However, it is quite obvious the two artists are tremendously talented in their own right and were born to carry on the torch and make the soul forefathers and mothers quite proud.
By Ann Marie Collymore