In the first of two nights at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room, the much-heralded South African male vocal group delivered engaging vocals and a stage presence to match. Review, photos.
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Despite growing concerns about COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the cancellation of festivals, events and concerts throughout the country, the atmosphere at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room on Thursday night was all about optimism and spirited music.
In the first show of a two-night stand, legendary South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo brought sweet native sounds and engaging dance moves to the stage for a nearly sold-out audience.
With a long history that dates back to 1960, the collective — draped in vibrant attire — performed a wide range of songs in the vocal styles of isicathamiya and mbube.
Without any accompanying instrumentation, members of the nine-piece collective took turns leading songs that conveyed messages of love, peace and resilience. Songs performed included “Long Walk to Freedom,” “Hear our Prayer,” and “Homeless.”
A feeling of joy and excitement filled the room throughout the impressive array of stomps, high kicks and jumps that accompanied each song. Humor also ensued, with various, almost skit-like punch lines that included a bit of physical comedy.
Concertgoer Joey Frendo, of the Grand Rapids band Winnow, called it a “badass” performance that was “very unique and uplifting. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was amazing.”
In all, the concert certainly proved to be inspiring, especially given the fact that every melody, beat and sound on stage came from the human body. Following an encore and standing ovation, the group departed with an affirming message:
“Stay in peace, love and harmony. We love you.”
NOTE: Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Friday night show at Listening Room in Grand Rapids is sold out, and some of the remaining shows on the group’s U.S. tour have been canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus COVID-19.
PHOTO GALLERY: Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Listening Room
Photos by Anna Sink