Pop, jazz and rap

Bobby McFerrin: Recital

Date: March 13, 2015
Location: Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong.

When Bobby McFerrin last visited Hong Kong in 2004, he sang with Eason Chan and Candy Lo. His duet with Eason Chan, My Funny Valentine, garnered rave reviews. Eleven years later, he sang with Madison, his daughter; and spirityouall, his band. Sidekicks have changed, but the ethereal beauty of McFerrin’s voice remains. McFerrin’s voice, effused with an eternal lightness and a soothing quality that can’t be described in words, exhibits therapeutic effects not dissimilar to those offered by gazing aimlessly at white clouds floating in blue sky. McFerrin’s audience is global, but his sound, particularly in this spirityouall World Touroozes with an unmistakably all-American blend of soul, gospel, blues, and rock. From the contemplative meditation of “Glory, Glory” to more robust locomotion of “Joshua”, McFerrin runs his show with a wide range of tempi. A master of audience interaction, he does singalongs with willing audience members who would approach the stage to sing a verse or two of “Whole World (in His/Her Hands)”, with the band in tow. McFerrin’s voice can’t be pigeon-holed into any genre, but by any objective analysis he has a natural gift in syncopated rhythms, and in mixing his chest voice and falsetto to achieve a vibrant fabric of vocal goodness. Even as song lyrics verge towards proselytizing, he sounds grounded and earnest. The highly skilled group of musicians provided much support throughout the evening, but its dramatic highlight belonged to drummer Louis Cato. A multitalented musician, Cato warmed the Cultural Centre with beautiful fret work on acoustic guitar and vocal output, in a solo rendition of “Amazing Grace”. Notwithstanding a brief but annoying intrusion of the sound system by a cellphone nearby, the performance left Cato in tears and McFerrin leaving his position onstage to give the soloist a long embrace. At that very moment, it was as if McFerrin was declaring that his whole world was in his embrace.

Bobby McFerrin in Hong Kong.

Bobby McFerrin in Hong Kong. Photo credit: Hong Kong Arts Festival.