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sledding

Bobby McFerrin & Questlove – June 13, 2014

While these guys may have rehearsed a little bit, I think this show was pretty much improvised. As we walked into the theater, Questlove was on stage alone, DJ-ing. When it was time to get started, out came Bobby McFerrin, who took a seat to the right of Questlove’s set-up (drum set, electronic drum set, and table with turntables, machines, computers). Bobby McFerrin can seemingly sing in any range, but for some reason he likes the upper registers and the falsetto, even though – in my opinion – his voice is best in a lower range, tenor or baritone. He can sound uncannily like Sly Stone if he feels like it. He likes to pound out percussion on his chest as he sings, as if he were imitating electronic music with his body.

McFerrin strikes me as a highly talented, grown-up kid, as if he were simply playing rather than performing. The whole mood of the show was playful. On the first number, Questlove played the drumset while McFerrin morphed from one tune to another, scatting three quarters of the time. Some of the numbers he touched upon: “I Shot the Sheriff,” Prince’s “Kiss,” the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” Allen Toussaint’s “Everything I Do (Has Got to be Funky), "Tip-toe Through the Tulips,” “Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” (he scatted both Plant’s and Page’s parts), “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and the Carpenters’ “Close to You.” You can imagine.

When this was over he spoke in the voice of some phlegmatic Englishman. Questlove then switched to the electronic drum-set and jammed on a funky beat while McFerrin went into fake convulsions. Questlove couldn’t resist imitating McFerrin. Then suddenly Questlove’s phone started ringing. He said he couldn’t turn off the ringer, because the phone was a Samsung … “It’s my mother, should I answer?” McFerrin took this as his cue for some vocal improvisation … Then Questlove quipped, “It’s not my mom, it’s the Tonight Show … I forgot to call in sick.”

Questlove: Are all your shows like this?
McFerrin: What?
Questlove: Are all your shows like this?
McFerrin: What do you mean?
Questlove: fun.
McFerrin: Yeah.
Questlove: We could go on tour; I could use an eighteenth job.

Later they were doing the riff from Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets, but McFerrin didn’t know the lyrics. He told the audience, if anybody knows the lyrics come on up on stage. Some douche came up on stage, and then confessed that he didn’t know the lyrics.

(Here are the lyrics, by the way, what they mean, I don’t know.

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight's hitting something
That's been known to change the weather
We'll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You're gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound)

Then later in the show, he asked if anybody could do any hip-hop dancing. A kid came up, he wasn’t bad, and McFerrin did his best to imitate his moves. He then invited up one of his students who did the beat-box while McFerrin scatted.

At the end, McFerrin even tried his hand at Questlove’s drums. He’s no drummer. It was adult kindergarten. I felt like we were witnessing what would more properly have taken place if McFerrin had called Questlove and said, "C’mon over and we’ll jam."

It was a good show. The mood was light, there was a lot of talent on stage, and we left feeling happy. Don’t worry.

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