There was no need for fanfare at the recent Black Violin concert at the Long Center. The audience of 2,400, or so, people was already hype with anticipation as the lights dimmed and the silhouette of the drummer silently crossed the stage to his set.
Against a royal blue backdrop, we could make out his arms moving in the universal “Get up out ya seats and give me some energy” motion. That was all the permission we needed: Children scrambled to get the best positions upfront; grown folks threw hands and shouts into the air (without care, I must add); and Wilner “Wil B” Baptiste and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester – collectively, Black Violin – sauntered on stage to begin a spectacular show.
While watching the ensemble — Black Violin, backed by a DJ and drummer —it was hard to believe that this was their 67th show of the year. The energy of the performance never faltered, staying high from the moment they hit the stage, launching powerfully into “Stereotypes” — the title track of their latest album — to a rousing encore featuring a moving tribute to Prince and Michael Jackson.
The energy of the performance never faltered, staying high from the moment they hit the stage.
Unlike their early shows, this 80-minute set focused more on the Black Violin’s original works instead of covers. They pulled songs from their early albums like “Dirty Orchestra” and “Brandenburg,” from the self-titled Black Violin; “Virtuoso” and “A-Flat” from Classically Trained; and “Magic,” “Invisible,” and “Addiction” from their 2015 release Stereotypes.
However, they didn’t neglect the unique melding of modern and classical music that brought them early recognition. Wil B provided vocals, while Kev Marcus played for covers of Wiz Khalifa’s “We dem Boys, ” a beautiful mashup of Ed Sheeran “Talking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it on” (for the lovers), and a nod to Pharrell with “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky.”
It was clear, however, that Black Violin’s purpose was not only to entertain their audience, but also to expand their minds by challenging their ideas of what Black men and violins could do. They carried themselves with a refreshing amount of #blackboymagic that brought to mind the excerpt popularly known as “Our Deepest Fears” from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love: “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
When I spoke with Wil B about the uplifting vibe that is characteristic of Black Violin’s shows, he pointed to multiple things, but specifically their audacious nature. The group is passionate about staying true to themselves and their purpose, no matter what anyone else says, and that fire oozes out of their music.
The group is passionate about staying true to themselves and their purpose, no matter what anyone else says, and that fire oozes out of their music.
Whatever it is, the #blackboymagic was potent and beautiful to observe as it moved about liberating the crowd. Those who were able danced down their rows and even into the aisles of the Long Center, while the hip-hop heads nodded skillfully to the beat the entire time.
The Black Violin show at the Long Center was definitely an unforgettable party, but perhaps the most touching aspect of the show was the effect it had on the children. They were amazed!
Two little Black boys sitting next to me were practically hanging over the railing as they took in every moment of the show (while I’m over here like…Ma’am! Can you please get ya kids!). I can only imagine how seeing two Black men in the midst of self-actualization challenged what our society has taught them to believe about themselves. Only time will tell
Black Violin are currently touring Europe, including a show tonight, Jun. 8,at The Borderline in London and a performance at The Isle of Wight Festival in the United Kingdom on Jun. 10.