Sweet Honey in the Rock: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

Sweet Honey in the Rock wrapped up its 2008-09 concert season at the Birchmere on Friday night, and the women of the a capella group declared one of the best in memory. "Barack was elected this season, Barack moved into the White House this season, and Sweet Honey in the Rock sang at the White House this season!" said Louise Robinson.

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

Robinson, along with Ysaye Maria Barnwell, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha Kahlil, Carol Maillard and Shirley Childress Saxton, capped off a historic tour with a selection of songs covering a huge amount of musical terrain: blues, spirituals, soul, reggae, hip-hop, jazz and gospel. There were even a couple of children's songs, "Do What the Spirit Say Do" and "I Like It That Way."

The group, which was founded here in 1973, loosened up the crowd with "Chant," which required audience participation in a canon meant to mimic the sounds of a rain forest. The women then went directly into several songs that explored spiritual and cultural themes, and showcased their beautiful harmonies, including amazing versions of "Motherless Child," with a solo from Maillard, and "Redemption Song," which featured inspired scat singing from Kahlil.

"Denko," a song from Mali that the group has performed since the 1980s, was easily a highlight: It not only showed off the range of the women's voices but their skill with percussion, as one of the few Sweet Honey songs enhanced by cowbell, tambourine and shekere.

Sweet Honey wrapped up an incredible night -- and season -- with talk of peace, freedom ("Ella's Song"), love ("Give Love" from 2008's "Go in Grace") and a promise that they'd be back in town in the fall.

-- SARAH GODFREY

By J. Freedom du Lac |  May 17, 2009; 8:04 PM ET Live Last Night
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