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BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA @ Chevron Lighthouse gets 8/10


Blind Boys of Alabama @ Chevron Lighthouse
w/ Billy Rogers and the Country Gentlemen
Saturday, February 29, 2020

8/10

Now entering their eighth decade, the grand old godfathers of gospel took us all to church with their captivating blend of soulful storytelling and uplifting gospel classics. The classy gentlemen from the deep south, resplendent in red dinner jackets and bow ties flavoured their carefully crafted celebration of faith with youthful swag and no shortage of theatre.

The soul stirring vocals of opening act Billy Rogers and the Country Gentlemen set the scene with their “folktastic”, soulful country sound.

Enter the great Jimmy Carter and the Blind Boys of Alabama, accompanied by their brilliantly talented band and an exciting sense of anticipation. The audience stood in stunned silence, in awe of the incredible vocal talent and southern charm of this history making ensemble. “Well alriiiight,” was the catch phrase for the evening and the boys opened up with some gospel classics, including I Want to be Ready and People Get Ready, before rallying us together with an upbeat bluesy rendition of Spirit in the Sky.

Blind Boys of Alabama

The stage set accompanied by piano, Jimmy inspired us with the soulful ballad, Almost Home, about the incredible journey of the group from when they first sang together in the school chorus in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind, to their tours around the world celebrating their faith through a love of gospel music. At 89, Jimmy Carter’s insatiable appetite and love for gospel music is infectious, not to mention his endless energy for performance. Their current 2020 world tour comprises 38 concerts in 13 countries. Their uplifting renditions of timeless gospel tracks like Lord Knows, I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord and Nobody’s Fault but Mine brought us to a smooth and soulful performance of The Wire theme song Down in the Hole.

Blind Boys of Alabama

The highlight of their set had to be their incredible version of Amazing Grace sung to the tune of House of the Rising Sun. Playful and heartening the five boys and four-piece band brought the entire venue to a moment of adoration and affinity for the uniting spirit of the gospel genre. Now alive the crowd danced and laughed at the theatre of their final song I Feel Like Moving as the Blind Boys leapt from their chairs held back by their frantic guitarist from the inevitable disaster of falling into the depths of the audience, in a nice bit of theatre. Jimmy Carter was led from the stage into the crowd to get up close and personal with his adoring fans before returning for the final bows… or so we thought. Returning to the cheers for an encore the boys played a lively gospel classic, I Shall Not be Moved, followed by a fun and funky cover of Higher Ground that would have made Stevie Wonder proud.

Blind Boys of Alabama

The humble presence of the musicians on stage conceals the incredible impact this group has made on the world of music. From performing for Presidents, fundraising for Martin Luther King Jnr and producing the intro theme to award winning HBO series The Wire, the Blind Boys of Alabama became part of the soundtrack to America’s civil rights movement and have profoundly influenced an entire generation (or three) of gospel, soul, R&B and rock musicians. Not to mention their 5 Grammy awards and their work with artists including Prince, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt, Ben Harper, Bon Iver and Amadou & Mariam. Their music opens doors so our eyes can see.

The music and infectious energy forces an impulsive response no matter your faith or belief system. As an audience member, you want to jump up and shout “amen” and bear witness to their mission, to bring hope and joy to the world through their soulful sound.

TIM & LISA HILL

Photos by Jessica Wyld

 

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