LIVE: Toshi Reagon & BIGLovely @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 3/24/16


Review by Greg Haymes

Toshi Reagon and her band BIGLovely cracked open their concert at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Thursday evening (March 24) with the joyous “Happy and Satisfied,” and that’s just how she left the crowd at the end of the 110-minute performance.

The crowd was small – perhaps only about 200 in the theater – but their voices were as strong and as loud as a full house, and Reagon gave them plenty of opportunities to sing along, often without prompting.

She sang about empowerment in the reggae-tinged “You Are the Only One.” She sang about the destructiveness of complacency during the defiant “Terrify Me.” She sang about mistrust of the government with “Down to the Water.” And she sang about environmental awareness and the failures of the media in “Look Out,” a whip-smart, wah-wah-fueled funk bomb that sounded something like a Sly Stone-meets-Junior Walker jam session.

Reagon comes by her big voice – and her big message – honestly. It’s in her blood, as her mother is the revered singer-social activist Bernice Johnson Reagon, co-founder of the glorious a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, who have graced the Music Hall stage many times over the years.
And mid-concert Toshi paid tribute to Sweet Honey’s long and rich legacy with a back-to-back pairing of their tunes – the chugging blues of “How Long” and intimate chamber-folk of “I Be Your Water,” one of the many highlights of the night.

Reagon also offered a pair of stellar solo performances – the stark, minimalist blues of “Mr. Conductor Man” and a poetic, powerhouse rendition of Ferron’s “Misty Mountain” – but her four-piece backing band, featuring electric guitarist Adam Widoff and violinist Juliette Jones, gained momentum as the evening wore on.

And the band was hitting on all cylinders during the second half of the night, especially with the deliciously droning bluegrass-meets-blues of “Mountain Top,” the jazz-tinged, Marvin Gaye-like gem “Freedom” and a mighty, mighty, show-closing tear through Bob Marley’s “Wake Up and Live,” which brought the crowd to their feet.

This review is reprinted with the permission of The Times Union.

Happy and Satisfied
Down to the Water
Land on the Shore
Didn’t I Tell You
Terrify Me
You Are the Only One
Misty Mountain (Ferron)
This Moment
How Long (Sweet Honey in the Rock)
I Be Your Water (Sweet Honey in the Rock)
Mountain Top
Look Out
Mr. Conductor Man
Wake Up and Live (Bob Marley)

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