L Kent Wolgamott
Lincoln Journal Star
Nov 8, 2008
Bob Marley’s “One Love,” the gospel number “River Jordan,” a little hip-hop and a Detroitmeets-Memphis soul version of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Remember You” poured off the Lied Center for Performing Arts stage Friday.
On paper, that list seems too eclectic to work. But when delivered by the exhilarating Soweto Gospel Choir, the songs fit perfectly together, conveying a message of the uplifting nature of the human spirit.
The heart of the first half of the Grammy winning choir’s “African Spirit” show, the international, varied mix of songs was interspersed with South African numbers sung in Zulu and Sotho — a combination that revealed the universal language that is music.
Contributing to the captivating mix of sounds were the arrangements. Some numbers were performed a cappella, others were accompanied by a pair of large hand drums and some got the band treatment with electric or acoustic guitar, bass, drums and keyboards.
The choir, formed just six years ago, really puts on a show from its walking-down-the-aisles entrance to the exuberant challenge dancing that capped the first half of the concert.
The second half of the show opened with more dancing, including the “Canteen Segment,” during which the men turned a table, silverware, plates and glasses into percussion instruments while dancing and clowning around.
Then the choir got down to some serious business with a quartet of traditional hymns, including the favorite of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. That richly moving segment of the show was capped with a stirring version of “Amazing Grace” that featured four soloists and gorgeous harmonies from the massed choir.
The end of the show was, not surprisingly, powerful and uplifting, with a version of “Swing Down” that went beyond calland-response without forsaking the form; a song called “Africa” sung in Zulu that was filled with overtones of township jive; and a closing segment that ended with the audience standing, clapping and some singing along to “Oh Happy Day.”
I’d love to identify the standout choir members, but their names were not announced during the show. But the woman who sang “I’ll Remember You” and “Oh Happy Day” is one of the best soul singers I’ve heard in years.
The Soweto Gospel Choir performed at the Lied Center in March 2007 and gave one of the best shows I’ve seen there. Friday night’s concert was even better.