Concert Review: AverySunshine

September 20, 2017

AverySunshine at the City Wintery.

I wrote this on FB right after the concert…


“We all got a story and you can’t sing yo face off like she did and not have a personal relationship with Source. She be stretched out on God. Last time I was at the City Winery, Rachel Farrell took us to cherch and once again it happened. Avery Sunshine is the truth. Chicago, I love you, my city. And if we don’t kno ish else we know Soul music, House music and Gospel. Iont know if I’m writing a full concert review for this one, cos she got me all open and gooey. All the feels. The anointing that’s on her life and her instrument, my Gawd! 2 sold out nights at the City Winery. A 90 min set turned into a 120 min set. Safe in His Arms…The Lord is Blessing Me…and her cover of the Clark Sister’s, You Are My Sunshine. I only took one pic and it’s blurry, I was too much into the music. #averysunshine #citywinery #chicago #blessed


Actually, on my commute home that night, I did write a full review in my phone, but I accidently deleted the note. As I’ve been capturing every concert I’ve been to this summer I wanted to put something on here to document that moment.


Concert Review: Smokie Robinson

September 15, 2017. 
Late post. Loosely written. 
Drafted on my commute home that night. 
Gotta love the notes section of the phone.

Tonight, my mom and I saw the legendary Smokie Robinson at Ravinia. Smokie’s set was a slow simmer and I enjoyed every minute of it. Oddly enough, it was comparable to Lionel Richie. I think it’s the singer-songwriter & balladeer effect. I read somewhere, don’t remember where, Smokie was referred to as the “poet laureate of soul”—how befitting a title.

Visuals. Smoke came on stage like:

Green suit. Shiney emerald jacket and leather pants. Green studded belt. White shirt. Hair: twists in top, sides slicked down. Earrings both ears. Link chain. At some point he took off his jacket and I could see his nipples. I didn’t need to see his nipples. He’s an elder.


-Quiet storm

-Oooh baby baby (He was very Lenny Williams-esk on this one…wails, cries, and pleads. Lol lol lol.)

He’d come to dance. Gyration. Pelvic thrust. Now you know Smokie always been a lil stiff, but babeeee he was moving tonight. “Music got good to me” he shared as he danced.

He gave us a history lesson about the “Motown Revue” and going on tour with the other legends. I always enjoy hearing Black elders in the business tell their stories.

He noted that the mighty Temptations was his favorite group to write.

Among the songs he wrote for them were:

“The Way You Do The Things You Do”

“Get Ready”

“My girl”

He shared a story about Stevie Wonder. He said Stevie, be on “Wonder time.” lol lol lol

The music/track for “Tears of a Clown” was by Stevie and the lyrics were by Smokie. Who knew? Cool story.

Growing up, there was always music playing in Smokie’s home from “gut bucket blues” to “gospel” and this influence is heard in his music. They’d play 78s in his house.


“Timeless Love”

“Fly Me to the Moon”

Smokie slowed it all the way down and scaled back. Could hear the pureness of his voice and his falsetto was easy on the ear. This was the “B-side” part of the set.

He sat on a stool with just the piano and his background singers supporting his simmer. These were truly the love-making, baby-making songs. My mom knew most of these, I did not, so I just sat back and watched a master, do what he do. Definitely will be checking for these at the record sto.


“Give Her Up”

“Swept for you Baby”

“Keep Me”

“I’ve Made Love To You A Thousand Times”(He really broke this song all the way down.)

He then sped it up a little on “Just to See Her,” the bass player also came alive. He was jamming on the one. Lol lol lol

“Tracks of My Tears” is one of my favorite Smokie songs. The first two lines of the song does it for me, they just set up the song so nicely:

“People say I’m the life of the party
Because I tell a joke or two…”

It was definitely a treat to see this live. It started with the guitar and the musicians took their time and Smokie took his time, and the crowd sang along softly.

Clearly, this was my mom’s jam too, cos she jumped up.

“Cruisin” is another of my favs because I love the track/instrumental. At the end of this song dude on the keys went into gospel chords. Also, the bass and horn players broke it down. Bass player was truly feeling it—he was playing with his whole body. This song FELT good. Nothing like music that FEELS good to the soul.

I am so glad that I saw a legend tonight. Smokie is truly a master, the “poet laureate of soul.”


nicole jhan’rea

#SmokieRobinson #SheBloomsBlack

Concert Review: NAS is still bae. Lauryn is still Ms. Hill.

CHICAGO. September 7.

Ms. Lauryn Hill (MLH)/NAS/Chronixx

at Huntington Bank Pavilion—Northerly Island


(Unedited) Didn’t know how the fall-like weather was going to act for this outdoor show, so I was strategic with my attire. Layers…including a scarf and gloves in my bag knowing that when the sun set it would be major brrrrr.


Some of us people were still holding on strong to summer—there were vaselined melanated shoulders popping, short shorts with fishnets underneath, backs out, muffin tops wanting to make one last appearance, and summer pedicures hanging over the edge of sandals.


Following in the footsteps of Mary J. Blige who kicked off her Strength of a Woman Tour in Chicago, end of July, Thursday’s show kicked off MLH + NAS, PowerNomics Tour.


“PowerNomics reportedly stems from Dr. Claud Anderson’s book, which is about economic enfranchisement for the African-American community. So in celebration of that concept, the hip-hop legends will be raising funds in support of education, health, agriculture, technology, and other initiatives that will help build businesses and equity within the black community. Proceeds from each show will reportedly be donated to 44 charities, including The Harvest Institute, Yes We Code, Equal Justice Initiative and the International Peace Initiative.”


  • Chronixx was a well-received reggae opening act. He was pleased to see some of his countrywomen waving the Jamaican flag, on their feet and feeding him energy the entire set. I love us people cos dude did a whole entire set like he was headlining. Ha. His band sounded really nice though. Seeing him made me want to see Luciano in concert.


  • I do not like disclaimers from artists, let your art, whatever form or media, speak for itself. Prior to starting one of his songs he disclaimed it: “This song is not racist….” We do not have to apologize for our narratives or sharing our experiences no matter how uncomfortable it makes others.


  • There was a white man who sat in front of me and video recorded the Chronixx set on his iphone, and then he left. Whenever I see stuff like that it makes me cringe, possible cultural appropriation.


  • And of course, reggae equated to folk blazing up. Spliffs were being passed around and random “Irie’s” and “Jah Rastafari” were shouted in the section I was in. I am thankful for the open air and someone else lighting a bundle of incense.


NAS is still bae. Timeless. Classic hiphop. Bars.


One of my homies once said that Amy Winehouse & Ms. Lauryn Hill were heavy-hearted sistas. He said he could hear the pain in their voices and it made him sad for them. NAS paid tribute to Amy Winehouse (Cherry Wine) and he shared that when he was starting out, Michael Jackson allowed him to sample “Human Nature” for “It Ain’t Hard to Tell.”


“If HipHop is Dead”


“One Mic” – I will always appreciate seeing him do this song live because it reminds me of youth I’ve worked with over the years. “One Mic,” is always on playlists I use to help engage youth. Also, I use “One Mic,” with youth I support using the therapeutic intervention of HipHop/Rap Therapy.


Unfortuntely, Bae was on stage for like 20-mins and then he was gone, and we were sad, like wait, did you just hit us with a mini-set? Who does that? Nooooooooooooo…. (in my Kevin Hart voice.)


Lauryn’s dj came on stage and smoothed us out as we waited for Lauryn. I had emotional memory from his set when I saw her last year at Ravinia, almost a year ago to the date of this show. Check out that review.


Ms. Lauryn Hill’s band played before she came on, and she entered rocking my favorite color, green. Her green cape-type coat and green eye-shadow were very Nigerian fashionista-esk.


MLH took her time with “Everything is Everything” and “Ex-Factor.” Here voice on Ex-Factor though, all the feels. I want her to record this version of Ex-Factor, I like the arrangement because it compliments the lyrics and urgency in her voice. Lauryn was in her feelings and the explanation was in the words she sang, suddenly I was even more hyped for the musical journey she was about to take us on and I didn’t care that her sound was loud: loud band and her loud vocals. I wasn’t mad. I simply put my tissue ear plugs in and I was invested.


The audience was trying to figure Lauryn out. One sis kept saying, “tha fuq is this…” They knew the words, but couldn’t figure out the arrangements. They wanted the album version of songs, they weren’t open to world flare. I understand familiarity is human nature, but I also understand that change is the only constant thing in life. MLH has changed since 1998.


Her band was dope. The one brotha was playing all the instruments: the African Kora, Xylophone and the guitar.


Her set was stimulating: lights, video…robust sound…I felt like I was elsewhere in the Diaspora. Afro-beats presence and her vocals/rhymes were clear, even those moments when it was like Twista had climbed into her body making her rhyme fast.


I really wanted the audience to be open to change, to vibe and F E E L what was being rendered. No need to punish artists for evolving. As for me, I want something special, different, and unexpected when I see artists live. Live music!


She was firm in requesting, “Get some light on my ladies.” Her “ladies” reminiscent of Fela’s “Queens,” dancing and singing.


When I heard, “I treat this like my thesis / Well-written topic, broken down into pieces…” I lost it, “Final Hour” is my ish.


“Lost Ones”


Each song was allowed to breathe. Each had texture, layers and depth…changing cords. Each song was rich, and they felt like heavy cream being folded into the space between that which was, and that which is becoming.


Ms. Hill is still intense and intentional in her artistry. A genius of sorts. All embodying. Hard working and present for all elements of her show. Black excellence.


I think doing this tour with NAS brought out a different side of Lauryn, she seemed more comfortable in the skin than she did last year at Ravinia. Don’t get me wrong I loved her Ravinia show because she gave us a range of her catalog including her Nina Simone stuff, but she was harder hitting Thursday and I approve.


She paid homage to the Fugees:


She rocked out, “How Many Mics.”


“Zealots” was closest to the album version and it was dope how she and her background singers harmonized on the chorus.




“Ooh la la la”


“Ready or Not” I’ve always friggin’ loved loved loved, this line: “So while you’re imitating Al Capone · I’ll be Nina Simone, defecating on your microphone.”


“Killing Me Softly”




NAS came back on a stage—it was a welcomed surprise after he’d only did what felt like a 20 min set.


He made my ovaries smile by doing:


  • “New York State of Mind”
  • “Whose World is This”
  • “You Can Hate Me Now”
  • “Made You Look” – “You a slave to a page in my rhyme book”


And then he asked: “Where’s the Queen?” Lauryn returned to the stage for “If I Ruled the World.”

It was clear that they have love and respect for each other and their embrace after the song was sisterly/brotherly L O V E! Their embrace felt like the intent of Talib Kweli’s sentiment in Ms. Hill.


Lauryn did one last song “Doo Wap!”


This concert was so HipHop. It felt bboy/bgirl with soul and African Diasporic. It felt aware. It felt woke. They didn’t need to beat us over the head with “PowerNomics,” but the essence and intent were apparent in their performances.


Immediately after the concert I put my earbuds in because I didn’t want to hear the negative commentary about Lauryn Hill. I get it, folks wanted to be nostalgic and reminisce on the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but damn can Lauryn live? Can she breathe. Can she art, how she wants to art?




nicole jhan’rea


#SheBloomsBlack     #MsLaurynHill     #NAS     #Chronixx     #Powernomics

Concert Review: Lionel Richie & Mariah Carey

(Unedited) Seeing Ms. Lauryn Hill/NAS/Chronixx in concert Thursday night reminded me that I hadn’t posted about Lionel Richie. I’ve been holding that one near and dear. Typing his name makes me smile because he put on a great show, even my summer concert buddy, my mama, loved his show.

Lionel is still very comfortable on stage and it’s apparent how long he’s been doing this. His execution was effortless. Since Richie’s concert at the United Center I’ve found myself busting out singing “Penny Lover,” “Just to be Close to You” and “You are the Sun, You are the Rain,” lol lol lol those songs were my jams when I was little. I think I was too young to even like these song, but they were definitely hairbrush as mic, dramatically singing in the mirror, kinda songs!

I’d been looking forward to seeing Lionel Richie cos I love me some Commodores, and with the exception of, Dancing on the Ceiling, I like his solo stuff. Though I didn’t like that song, I knew all the words and sang all of them at the concert.

* Saturday. August 26, 2017. MiMi & Li-o-nel at the United Center. *

So, let’s start with Mariah Carey. Her entire set I kept looking around at the white folk, mostly millennial women, and being amused because I felt like I was at a Britney Spears concert, these women were loving MiMi. Her set was “tired” though. Poor word choice, but I just can’t with Ms. Carey, and it doesn’t help that I’d watched that cable special she did over the summer following her European Tour. Overall, for her set: 1) It seemed like she was lip-syncing songs 2) It was an awkward and lackluster performance.

• Tanaka, her dancer turned lover, was her “handle.” He didn’t dance,
he just escorted her on and off stage, carrying her a couple times. Uhm yeah…
• Da Brat was her special guest for “We Belong Together.”
• Who knew Trey Larenz was still singing back-up for Mariah….? I didn’t.
• Who knew that Big Jim, her music director, was from Rockford, IL? I didn’t know that either.
• Pretty much, Carey’s band outshined her.
• She did 3 outfit changes. Cos why? I do not know.
• Highlight: The twins are adorbs, Roe and Rocky.

As for Mr. Lionel Richie, he put on a show! Lights. Camera. Action.

The opening light show was direct, clean and attention grabbing — it wasn’t too much, it was just the right amount of drama. He opened with “Easy” and came with hit after hit after hit. I love concerts where the artist has so many great songs in their catalog that I can sing along with all of them. So so so, feel good.

Nothing like seeing a singer, songwriter and musician do their thing. Lionel gives me all the feels because his music, like several others I’ve seen this summer, takes me back to childhood, a happy place.

Here’s the thing though, Lionel’s band is stuck in the 80’s, especially the white guitarist with the 80s rock band thing going on — I friggin’ love it. And if you remember those Lionel Richie videos back in the day, with predominately white dancers and musicians, you know exactly what I’m talmbout. *yell laughs* It wasn’t like he didn’t have brothas in the band as well, but the 80s guitarist with his long rockstar-hair, kept catching my attention and tickling me. Also, Mr. Richie didn’t have 20 y/o dancers flitting around stage. I am thankful for that because I think it’s unnecessary and inauthentic for older singers to have young half-naked women prancing around on stage.

I also enjoyed his commentary. He shared that he’d gone to high school in Joilet, IL. Who knew?

Lionel was also very personable, connecting with the audience and teasing more “seasoned” and elder concertgoers about how they were flashing back to their heydays as they listened to these songs and cut a rug.

His set-list included:
• Easy
• Running in the Night
• Penny Lover
• Truly
• You Are the Sun, You are the Rain
• Stuck on You
• Dancing on the Ceiling
• Three Times A Lady
• Sail On
• Sweet Love
• Lady
• Just to be Close to you
• Brick House
• Fire
• Hello
• Say You, Say Me
• We Are the World

Like I said, this was a feel good show. Definitely would see him again in concert!


nicole jhan’rea



Concert Review: Lizz Wright’s voice is endless…I HEAL


I drafted this in my phone last Saturday...
My bad, I’m just getting around to posting it.
> It is very loosely edited <


August 19, 2017


About 2 weeks ago I had surgery. I share this now, merely to contextualize my concert experience this evening with Lizz Wright, it felt otherworldly, in a good way. (I’ll write a post soon about the surgery, but for now, just receive it as context for this post.)


Weeks prior to the surgery I’d been to several shows including, Mary J. Blige with Lalah Hathaway, and Rachelle Farrell. These sistas supported my pre-op plan and were key in helping me wrap my head around the thought of having a procedure done. At 43, I’ve never had a surgery or been “under.” The anesthesiologist was shocked that at my age, I’d never had a surgery.


2 weeks later, and I’m well on my healing journey, and tonight, Lizz Wright’s voice & the lyrics of the songs she sang, were my balm.


This was: Truth and Racial Healing Concert Featuring Lizz Wright at the Logan Center. I don’t even now how I found out about it, but I am sooooo glad I did. And, who knew that Lizz is now on the board of Little Black Pearl and she’s their resident gardener? Well I didn’t. So, Chicago is like her second home now. How cool is that? Very!


Opening for Lizz was this dope Puerto Rican singer, Sandra Antongiorgi, and her band. Sis sings with such slow, intentional…urgeny, anddddddd she slayed a Spanish cover of Jill Scott’s “He Love’s Me.” What?!?!?!? That was all things amazing!


So, by the time Lizz Wright came on, I was ret. My intention was set, and I’d even pulled out my prayer beads and dabbed on some lavender oil. I was intentional on this concert experience supporting my healing journey.

Lizz came out with, “Old Man.” And then she gave us “Barley,” off her forthcoming album, Grace. It felt like she channeled Mavis Staples and freedom songs on this one. She even pulled out her “brown praying hands” tambourine getting it ready for some thumpin’.


*Barley: The wind that shakes the barley will not shake me…


The richness and endlessness of her voice, and the lyrics, continued to settle on me as she sang, “Somewhere Down the Mystic” and “New Game.” She invited out two Chicago vocalists to accompany her, and I got all warm fuzzied by what felt like, camaraderie and reverence between the three of them.


*Somewhere Down the Mystic: My soul will walk up the mountain trail. Somewhere down the mystic another kind of angel calls.


*New Game: Did you ask about me? Yes, I’m running, staying down low, spirit up high.I’m not tired yet, staying ready. This is a new game, gonna flow like nothing behind. Running over. Rolling under. Nothing broken, still making time.


Between songs Lizz shared that she doesn’t talk much between songs because it’s too many parts of her brain working at the same time. I chuckled, “Okay sus, so we’ve been told…” Real talk though, I received that as a meditation and welcomed the stillness between songs. Also, she noted that really wanted to do this performance, and since she’s scheduled to be back in town at another venue in the coming months, she willingly and convincingly got “permission” to do this show.


On “Walk with me Lord” the band did solos and the white boy on the church organ, my my, he played like he was a Black Pentecostal organist from down south.  And, when they flowed into, “my soul says yes…” all I could do was drop my head back and look up in gratitude. #surrender


photo credit: nicole jhan-rea

On “Freedom” I was free to chair dance and she was free to gather her dress in her hand and crunch it at the thigh before returning to playing the tambourine. And she can “PLAY” the tambourine, frfr (for real, for real). Like Sunday morning, play the tambourine. Like praise & worship, bass & kickdrum, play the tambourine.

*Freedom: I say freedom, you must hang out amongst the stars. It’s kinda hard for you in a world like ours… Call again and I’ll answer


“Speak Your Heart” felt appropriate for this day, this time. All that’s happening personally and in the world, it’s a manifesta of sorts for courage & resilience. Nearing the close of the song, she stepped away from the mic and self-soothed as if she needed a moment with her feelings. Patting herself on her chest. She returned to the mic and the music faded. My response of “niceeeeeee,” softly seeped from my lips. That was a very nice moment. In that moment one had to be “present” to get it.


* I do want to be your reoccurring dream…I want to be real to you, no more disguises. Let me in, or let me go…


Another treat from her new project is the Nina Simone cover of, “Seems I’m Never Tired of Loving You.”


*Fun fact: This song was written by Aretha Franklin’s sister, Carolyn Franklin.


This. song. right. here. It’s so abysmal, yet so easy on the spirit–thinly draped across the heart like a fleece woobie/blankie that babies rub against their face for contentment and safety. As I’m sitting there with the lyrics and the images, Lizz revealed the story of making the album through images, I thought: “Dear Auntie O, Lizz Wright’s cover of, “Seems I’m Never Tired of Loving You,” and these images NEED to be the opening song or at least played on OWN’s “Black Love” show. Jus’sayin’…holla at ya girl, Auntie.”


She welcomed Sandra back on the stage for “Painted Sky,” and she closed out the set with “Coming Home.” I wasn’t ready for her to go though. I was greedy, I didn’t just one more, I wanted several more songs. Hell she coulda stood there and sang “row row row yo boat….” The liniment of her voice. The balm of her instrument.


She did return, for an encore. She sang: “I Remember, I Believe” by her godmother Bernice Johnson-Reagon from Sweet Honey in the Rock. Lizz shared that she was leaving us with this memory because sometimes, it’s these memories that give us strength.


As I stood to clap for her, I raised from the chair feeling good. Grounded. Purpose-filled. Healing.



nicole jhan’rea

#SheBloomsBlack      #LizzWright

P.S. From what I’ve heard, Grace, her new album has a chuchy, twangy, Lizzy feel to it! Lol lol lol. I’m here for all of it!

Putting on my crown and reminding myself of my soul-knowings

photograph by nicole jhan'rea (c)2017

(Unedited) Possibly it’s the only child in me or the creative in me or the extroverted introvert in me, but in these moments I have to block out the noise, the commentary…the bullshit. It is when I am still that I realize that “folk” [all people, places, things, zone snatchers…etc!] coming for me, ain’t really coming, for me, they coming for “the Light.” They’re attempting to dim “the Light.”


In the words of James Baldwin, “My crown has already been bought and paid for, all I have to do is put it on my head.” I was meant to be, HERE, and as this quote reminds me of my meant to be’ness, I elevate above all adversity and naysayers. In these moments of folk cometh for me, I have to stretch all out like that wild-sleeping-child who in their small frame takes up the breadth of the bed, spreading through the four corners. In these moments, I have to lay-out wide upon the Greatest I Am, surrender and be rejuvenated by Grace & Favor, cos there is no way that I could navigate this thing called life, and have peace of mind and spirit without my soul-knowings.


E’ryday, I gotta put on my crown and remind myself of my soul-knowings.


I am never alone, even when I am with myself.


I digress…


Aug. 15, 2017.  4:22am. Up early in meditation. Sweet surrender. Stillness. Tapping into wellness. The reservoir of quiet. There’s a song that says, “He’s a wonder in my soul…” …  …  …  …  …  …


There is time and space where semantics don’t get overshadowed by the soul-knowing that God cares and the Universe & ancestors are not only, always…always…always on my side, but they have my best interest at heart. I love the saying, “I am my ancestors wildest dreams…” It’s empowering to know that there were beings before me who loved on me & the possibilities of me long before I was conceived in the flesh. They’d conceived me in their hearts and loved me enough to die and fight for my freedom. To know that my personal ancestors and our cultural ancestors had me, us, in mind many suns and moons ago, creates a real sense of safety.


At my core I have a deep understanding and regard for the truths of God, Universe… ancestors, and I don’t get caught up in the semantics of what us humons have deemed as a Living God. Arguments like, does God exist, is God a he or she, is God Black or white, does God let bad stuff happen, Is there a Universe…Though I can articulate my views on having a God that reflects me Womon & Black, believing in a Universe that aligns with my “tuning forks” and conspires to support me in being the best version of me I can be, and that I’m grounded in a knowing that I am supported by ancestors, I understand these things are rooted in my personal relationship with these entities, and that others also want to see their reflection in the Greatest I Am.


Life, sometimes, not merely gets in the way, but gets so heavy that if I am not careful I forget, not forget, but get consumed with stuff that get me stuck or not tapping into my soul-knowings. But we have choices to make. I have to choose God…Universal laws…Ancestors everyday and in choosing the wholeness of these entities I choose myself. I am responsible for reminding myself of this daily, that’s my responsibility and for me, I have to do that in stillness and in quiet.


E’ryday, I gotta put on my crown and remind myself of my soul-knowings.


I am never alone, even when I am with myself.



nicole jhan’rea


#SheBloomsBlack   #Crowned

Concert Review: Rachelle Ferrell took us to cherch! #Tabernacle

The bookends of my week were Sunday, the Strength of a Woman Tour (Mary J. Blige & Lalah Hathaway) and Friday, Rachelle Ferrell (RF), both very moving experiences. At Rachelle’s 7pm set, I found myself wanting to write. I wanted to do the physical act of pushing pen over paper, so, as she performed I wrote a little, but when things got real I stopped writing in real-time and finished it on the train home. I haven’t done much with this, it just is what it is. Raw. I move in and out of present and past tense, but I trust my sentiment and reflections are palatable.


Rachelle Farrell came on this City Winery stage seeming a lil unsettled and out of sorts. Ma is regular, no frills no extra, looking like she just stepped off the tour bus and onto the stage with a “clear” drink in hand and her cell phone in tow. Which, I think if you have a skillset like hers, you can come out in a fleece hooded-footie-onsie and no one should have a darn thing to say. Which, on the real, ain’t ish regular about RF but this ensemble she has on.




With craft and precision she’s taking her time warming up her instrument, her voice, as she settles into, “So Satisfied.” She’s kept it simple with the band, only 3 musicians, commenting that the bass and drums are the foundation. As I’ve said before about her voice, her vocal acrobatics and the time she’s taken to explore and uncover parts of her voice and range is, awe-inspiring. I love seeing her live because she is not only a technician, she is also guided by ancestors and spirit. She radiates…oozes a deep seeded soul-knowing that maybe she doesn’t even know the depth.


Whenever I see her live, which is not often cos she doesn’t tour often, but when she comes through Chicago, I try my darnedest to see her even if I cannot get good seats, I just want to be here. I’m glad she’s here at the Winery. I like Chicago’s west loop, City Winery; I call it my artist date dip-off spot. It’s one of the places I can take myself on a date to see live music and rarely be noticed. I usually get the same exact seat and order the same exact thing on the menu, and sometimes, I get a lil fancy with a wine pairing with my meal.


She takes her time with “Sista,” such care in the enunciation and breath control of one of my favs.


“What if Bobby McFerrin and Rachelle Ferrell had a baby, who would it be?”

Ladies pops into my mind.


Like Mary J. Blige, earlier in the week, Rachelle is celebrating us, speaking truths of Black womyn and our bond as sistas. And like Mary, she also brings in the male energy, not to de-center sistas, but to speak of our experiences with men. RF said: “I love brothas tooo,” but she broadened her breadth with: “Sometimes I have to separate from men and call on my own masculine energy.”


I digress, I would be remiss not to mention the sistas who are at the table with me. Two older sistas, both with beautiful salt/pepper hair who were loving their red wine, and another sista who’d invited two of her friends, one of which is high as the price of the red-bottoms she’s wearing. Sus has an edge on her, and she has the munchies. She is also flip at the mouth and sometimes her commentary is brash, not comical, though her hair is laid and lined to perfection. Which, her hair and her mouf have nuffin to do with one another…lol lol lol. She doesn’t really want to be here, but her friend who invited her, is trying to “contain” her. Her friend thinks that if she just gave it a chance, she’ll enjoy herself.


*pause in my writing and then started back up*


Rachelle started talmbout brothas and the bass was sounding good to sis at the table. As she ate her kale salad and flatbread she threw her fork in the air and affirmed: “Yeah, that’s it right there. Play it like that. And let’s talk about these men, not all this sista stuff, cos these dudes out here be suckas, breaking our hearts and shit.” All I can do is look at her like, Um kay, how you really feel? Lol lol lol


Back on the stage: Rachelle Ferrell acknowledges whose city she’s in. She pays homage to Uncle Bernie (Bernie mac) and she really felt attuned to the spirit of Sam Cooke. She offers up an impromptu verse of “Darling You Send Me,” and shares that Mr. Cooke was the first to combine gospel with soul, and where would we be musically, without him. But then she takes it too far by acknowledging Michael Jordan, everyone at my table is like um, no. Yeah Jordan was great on the court, but as it relates to giving back to the city or the people, we weren’t feeling him as it relate to him being a “Chicagoan” on that level.




Since this was her first set, out of the two she’ll be doing tonight, I don’t know if she’ll actually play for us. There’s a baby grand piano and keyboard on stage but yeah, we can only wish….


*I stopped writing in real-time at this point, and wrote the rest on my train ride home*


When she went over to the piano I got really excited and couldn’t stop cheesing, and when she sat and started to play, “I Can Explain,” I had a yaaaaas, dere is a Gawd, moment.


She played and sang the shit outta that piano. She went to the bedroom, the streets and then, she went to church. The intensity of her playing increased and she felt it in her body as she swayed and moved back and forth often dropping her head and trying to shake off the feelings that were bubbling up. But she couldn’t contain them, there was no managing her emotions they crept into her fingertips…into her playing.


After “I Can Explain.” She got up from the piano and went back over to the standing mic, she took off her glasses and wiped her face, her eyes, with a black hand towel. She was still full though, her emotions still high. She said, “Glory and honor…praise to God.”


This is when it got real…


I was raised in the church and have been around church folk my entire life. Different denominations. Different schools of thought. Different doctrine, ideologies etc. I say this to say, I know everyone is not familiar with the nuances, and for some it can be scary or even comical. But what happened next, was spirit, energy, ancestors…God moving and when that happens it’s no controlling it.


Rachelle Ferrell “got happy,” “the holy ghost moved through her,” and she started “speaking in tongues.” She also kinda translated what she said in “tongues,” and it was clearly praise and worship because she talked about “the enemy” and “where 2 or more are gathered, and how, “spirit wants to be here.”


I understood this. Yes, a tad bit taken aback that we went from “I Can Explain” to her “shouting, dancing and praising Him,” but not scared or without understanding.


I digress even further, my week has been a very trying one, so I was trying to manage my own emotions while also being a container and hold space. But, when she started singing acapella, I chose to be fully present and receive this gift of song and affirmation for my own life and my week.


She sang, He Looks Beyond My Faults.  This is one of my favorite gospel songs. The words of this song always place me in a space of supplication, gratitude and at peace.


She sang:

Amazing Grace will always be my song of praise

For it was grace, that brought my liberty

I’ll never know just why He came to love me so

He looked beyond my fault and saw my need

I shall forever life mine eyes towards Calvary,

to view the cross where Jesus died for me,

how marvelous His grace that caught my falling soul;

He looked beyond all my faults and saw my needs, my needs.


[Hindsight: A quick internet search I found footage of her covering this song at another performance, but in seeing this footage, I realize how deep she was in praise and worship on Friday, because though she sang her face off on this footage and had the church organ accompanying her, the heart and urgency and presence on Friday was 10x’s greater than what’s on this video.]


As she sang the song acapella, and a presence moved across the audience, the people “got it.” At my table the sista who brought her two friends, me and the other sista found ourselves harmonizing as we sang along with Rachelle Farrell. It happened organically and at various points of Rachelle sanging, various folk in the audience, that had morphed into a summertime Vacation Bible Study congregation, released a: “Praise Him…,” and a “Let’em use you.”


On my heart was: Elegba is here. Someone(s) at the crossroad.


Rachelle shared: “I’m here too, I’m channeling with you and thank you for the gift of your intention. Thank you for acknowledgement. Laying on solid ground.”


After this song she had a better handle of her emotions. She sat at the keyboard, played and sang “Run to Me,” but spirit was still high and she was tryna be still(er), but as she played her legs flared. Then the tempo changed for the remix, it became a breakbeat and the musicians settled into a groove. She let out a loud shout as if it was sage—to clear space and energy. She danced a bit, did a soul clap, said a lil sumthin while introducing the musicians one last time and that was it.


The audience didn’t move, though Rachelle had left the stage.


We wanted more.


I guess we also wanted to process with one another.


We wanted to hold onto the temporal space we’d just co-created.


But, she didn’t come back out, and the lights and music were on, and slowly we began to file out of the performance space.


I’m grateful to have experienced this.


Ashe. Amen. Ameen. Namaste.




nicole jhan’rea


#Tabernacle    #SheBloomsBlack