Live Music / Midtown / Times Square

Bobby McFerrin and Questlove (Bluenote Jazz Festival), The Town Hall

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Let’s be honest with ourselves and agree that once a stan, always a stan.   One actually never stops being a stan.  Maybe you stop listening to your favorite’s album every day, or even let a few concerts go by without buying a ticket. But then there’s a moment when they remind you why you fell in love with them in the first place, and you’re falling back in it again. This concert was that rabbit hole for Rachel.

This show was a bit of a surprise – we had already attended a show for the week, Rachel had a couple concerts lined up for the weekend, and to be quite honest, we were well over our pre-determined $50 per week/show budget.  But when we received a Bandsintown email for upcoming shows and Bobby McFerrin was listed for the Bluenote Jazz Festival, we couldn’t pass it up.  Rachel, being a lifelong fan of McFerrin, was beyond thrilled to finally see him live. Alicia, a big Questlove fan, was definitely more along for the ride. We arrived at our theater district destination and quickly discovered that The Town Hall is a nice little venue in Times Square that caters mostly to live music acts.  We didn’t know what to expect, most concerts seem to start a little late, but that wasn’t the case here.  Exactly at 8:00pm, the lights started blinking so we skipped the line for the alcoholic beverages and quickly ran to our seats just as Questlove sat behind his drum set and shortly after, Bobby McFerrin walked onto the stage and their Musical Dialogue began.

Tonight’s show was unlike any other show we’ve ever seen and probably will never see again.  The duo opened with Bobby singing a series of improvised (musically and linguistically) versions of “hello,” while Questlove freestyled in sync on the drums. During the ten minute intro, the audience sat in awe as they bounced sounds, music genres and laughs back and forth to kick start the evening. As the night went on, they seamlessly covered songs like “I Shot the Sherriff,” “I Love Paris,” “Kiss,” and “Blackbird” going from song to song like they were their own original pieces. This conversation between two of the world’s most talented artists (we stand by this statement) at times felt like it was something we shouldn’t be watching – like it was a secret jam session only a fans few were invited to. There wasn’t a set list or show order (from what we could tell) and Bobby spent most of the show seated in a chair facing Questlove, watching him and silently communicating with him at the start of every song as if to say, “Is this working or should we try something else?” At one point, Bobby let Quest go and he found his way through a song while drumming, DJ-ing off a computer, and playing his keyboard at the same time. What the heck, man?!

A few impromptu guests were invited to the stage by Bobby (one of which hilariously backfired). First, Bobby wanted to sing with someone so he polled the audience for talent. Zach and his brother came on stage during “Bennie and the Jets” after promising that they knew the lyrics to the Elton John classic…but were quickly and semi-kindly asked to get off of the stage when they proved otherwise. Next, while Bobby was singing “Rocky Raccoon,” he sat at the edge of the stage and invited the supposedly tone deaf Vanessa to the stage to sing-a-long – this was sweet, but over very quickly. Finally, Bobby put in a request for a hip-hop dancer from the audience to come on stage to perform while Quest drummed and his son, Taylor, beatboxed! These final guests were amazing and worth the wait.

After what appeared to be their last song, Bobby and Quest decided to give us one more performance for the road. This was by far our favorite number of the evening. Bobby McFerrin sort of nodded to Quest asking, “May I?” to his drum set and started playing along with the sounds coming from Quest’s turntables.  Quest then moved to the second drum kit he had on stage, and freestyled with Bobby – both of them on the drums – and again the crowd sat motionless. This felt like a dream or something that we made up in our heads. Talk about a truly mind-blowing experiencing.

RCS Takeaway: During their final song, I sat with my hands covering my face and I peeped through my fingers, stunned at what I was watching. I’m pretty sure I even started crying, as I tend to do. Growing up, my dad had me listening to Bobby McFerrin from a very young age, and he has been so influential to my music taste. Afterward, I reverted back into fangirl and waited outside of the stage door to meet him. I really, really will never forget this night and while I love my partner in crime, I wish I could have spent it with my dad! HELP HOW DO I RECREATE A CONCERT AND SHIP IT TO ST. LOUIS???!?!?!?!?aldkjsf ❤

Alicia’s takeaway: My knowledge about Bobby McFerrin before the show was limited – and later mocked when I told Rachel that I didn’t know he beatboxed (I deserved it).  I went to the show to see my favorite drummer, Questlove, but was blown away by the mostly improv’d show the two of them put on together.  The night can be summed up in Quest’s tweet – “Amazing Night. @bobbymcferrin taught me how to play using my heart, and not the mind #Improv.” Very cool.

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