Welcome to the Brian McKnight gun show. If I’m being fully transparent, I was really torn on whether or not I felt like taking that drive down 55 South to see Brian McKnight and his crew of musicians were going to do on stage at River City Casino – especially after En Vogue’s homogenized performance there a couple of months back that would have lowkey been a waste of gas had it not been for Rochelle “Coco Soul” Walker’s surprise performance in the club area of the casino. But I didn’t go for myself. I knew as a person enlisted to beat these streets in the name of entertainment that y’all would be aching to know if he is still looking good and sounding good – even though he always is and does. Wednesday night was no different – well, there was the whole thing of him exposing his arm meat for all of his lusting fans. And those arms don’t look too shabby – even though I can’t say that his sleeveless hoodie blouse item was Delores Shante approved. But I’m so happy he seems to be over his dad jeans phase that I gave him a pass for what he had going on up top. And I was so caught up in the performance that I forgot about the Larry The Cable Guy inspired design. He billed the show as the Brian McKnight 4 because he had a trio of musicians backing him, but he was a one man band on the low with his keys and guitar game. I feel like I’ve come to know what to expect from a Brian McKnight performance, but he tossed in some surprise tributes and covers. I certainly wasn’t expecting covers of Sting, Prince and Whitney Houston! He put that falsetto to work with those covers of “Do Me” and “I Have Nothing.” And except for the cheesy raw seduction during the Prince tune, I wasn’t the least bit mad!
The awesomeness of the Ivory Tour. My pre-weekend outings continued when I hit up Delmar Hall see Tobe Nwigwe’s Ivory Tour come to town Thursday night. I know what you are thinking, and no, Tobe is not the latest black British heartthrob actor to cross the pond and steal our hearts from the big or small screen. He is a rapper with roots in Nigeria, that’s straight outta H-Town. I’ve been checking for him since the “So Gone Challenge” was hot in these streets a few years back. I must say that aside from Monica herself and the shocking delight of a certain co-worker who shall remain nameless, Tobe gave me my favorite flow of that internet sensational moment. So, it goes without saying that I would see what his live show was talking about. I was not disappointed in the least with the self-proclaimed “Igbo boy from the Southwest side of Houston.” He represents for the woke folks and slays verses with his flow that focuses on intention and purpose. And his live show was pretty much everything I had hoped for. The tragic state of live rap shows means that he is already clocking most of his peers by not using vocal backing tracks. On stage, the best way to describe the energy that Tobe and his crew gives me is a male led, mellower version of Tank and Da Bangas. I know his lyrics are probably too deep for him to go mainstream, but if you want to prove the folks who feel like they can’t get down with any rap besides club tracks about twerking, drainkin’ (yes, drainkin’) smokin’ and stuntin’ – cue him up.
While the crowd wasn’t as robust as I’ve come to know for a Super Natural Anniversary, for the seventh year in a row James Biko and the squad had the party turnt (yes, turnt) so tough that if you didn’t enter the Ready Room as a natural on Saturday night, you certainly left as one. I actually enjoyed seeing the folks have room to spread out and make use of the whole entire dance floor. And with the exception for the space designated for vendors, they put every inch of it to use – from two stepping to pop-drop-and-locking. If Biko is curating the groove, it will not go to waste, because two or three will touch and agree to break it all the way down. I was also thrilled to run into a couple of my favorite local rappers – Lyfestile and Indiana Rome. I feel compelled to say again as a side note that Rome’s “Cloud Nine” is one of the most underrated rap records in St. Louis hip-hop history.
Shout out to SLIFF 2K19. Normally I don’t do this, but since I spent more time than usual hitting up the docs, shorts and feature narratives at Cinema St. Louis’ 28th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival, I feel like they deserve some of my ink. Between “St. Louis Superman” starring Bruce Franks Jr. to Alfre Woodard in “Clemency,” Michael B. Jordan in “Just Mercy” and filmmaker/producer Lisa Cortes’ docs “Hip Hop X Fashion” and “The Apollo,” I feel like I spent so much time perched up in movie seats that I missed some of the other nightlife happenings around town. I must say it was worth it. I felt like out of the lineup of films in this year’s roster, the “Race In America: The Black Experience” really spoke to me. It clearly spoke to everybody else as well, because “Just Mercy” took home the Best In Fest Audience Choice Award for Best Film. And let me say that Jamie Foxx gave an award worthy performance in “Just Mercy.” I’m talking “Ali” and “Ray” caliber. The festival honored Lisa Cortes with the Women in Film Award and Max Carlson’s tale of a little black girl and her father – a veteran suffering with PTSD – navigating through LA’s Skid Row – earned him the New Filmmakers Forum Emerging Director Award. Cinema St. Louis always represent our culture on screen, but I felt extra represented in 2019.
Black and classical music mashup. Black Violin, the Florida duo that blends black and classical music had a major upgrade in venue when they took their show to the Touhill Sunday night. Because of my training, I judge what they are doing a bit more critically than the casual fan. And by training, I mean second chair on violin in the sixth-grade orchestra at Twillman Elementary. Even with my ultra-critical ear, I must say that it was quite cute – especially seeing them and the young musicians they inspire share the stage with them. And I will say I absolutely love what they represent and how they inspire. Who knows? Had there been a Black Violin when I was coming up, I might be perched up on the Powell Symphony Hall stage with my chin cocked on an instrument instead of out here in these streets for Partyline. I’ll just charge it to the game of things happen they way that they are supposed to happen.