Live Last Night: The Foreign Exchange

When an MC hits the stage wearing a bow-tie, it's a good sign that an interesting show is about to take place. For the Foreign Exchange's sold-out date at the Black Cat on Friday, singer/rapper Phonte broke out what he called his "finest haberdashery," but even though he was wearing a suit and tie, he assured the crowd that "this is a [expletive] party!"

In keeping with that promise, the Foreign Exchange -- a duo consisting of Phonte, from the North Carolina hip-hop outfit Little Brother, and Dutch producer Nicolay -- delivered an incredible night of dreamy R&B/hip-hop.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

The duo -- along with the backing of D.C.-based band the ELs and a supporting cast of singers, including YahZarah, Darien Brockington and Muhsinah -- was plugging its latest album, "Leave It All Behind." The new disc is the same sort of Sade-meets-Slum Village mix that defined the Foreign Exchange's 2004 debut, "Connected," which the men famously made by swapping files over the Internet, but never actually meeting.

After a set from L.A duo J*Davey, the Foreign Exchange launched into mellow love songs ("House of Cards," "Sweeter than You"), as well as "Leave It All Behind's" peppy lead single, "Take Off the Blues," and even an R-rated version of Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday."

Rather than saving "Sincere," the group's first hit, for an encore, it came early in the night. They wrapped things up with two covers: The '90s Rude Boys ballad "Written All Over Your Face" and Level 42's '80s smash "Something About You," both of which turned the show into a sing-along. And when Phonte asked the audience if it had gotten its money's worth, there were nothing but affirmative cheers.

-- SARAH GODFREY

By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 8, 2009; 5:53 PM ET Live Last Night
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