No wind, rain, or winter’s cold could stop Dionne Farris from making a rare Brooklyn appearance while New York City plowed itself out of one of the most crippling storms in recent memory. The BAAS Group had invited the Atlanta-based artist to appear at Galapagos Art Space, situated a few yards from some of D.U.M.B.O.’s most breathtaking lower-Manhattan views.
Following an introduction by BAAS Group co-founder Troy Saunders, Farris sauntered up the stage-left steps to vociferous fanfare from the audience. She opened with her signature song, “I Know”, which emphasized the ageless qualities in her voice. Her pitch-perfect phrasing, in fact, could have been mistaken for the original recording. “Passion”, a track from her 1994 debut, Wild Seed-Wild Flower (1994), also sounded fresh and far younger than its 15 years. Farris stepped into the groove of the song, accentuating the rhythm of the words with a serpentine body movement and piercing the air with her fist during the song’s voltaic guitar riff.
One of the evening’s most awe-inspiring moments arrived early in the set. Farris explained how “Remember My Name”, a track from her unreleased For Truth If Not Love, was in “reference to the record company, not you”. Indeed, the lyrics conveyed how Farris felt “misplaced, disgraced, erased, rephrased, and replaced” by Epic Records following her debut. Any doubts about the sentiment behind the words were extinguished when Farris unleashed a stream of vitriol, eventually stopping time by repeating the line “You may not know me” with varied inflections, then roaring the title of the song. She punctuated the section by holding a note for 20-plus seconds. “I was a little upset”, Farris said after the riveting, seven-minute catharsis.
“I’ve always loved to sing, now I know I’m supposed to do it”, she said before introducing “So Blind”. It was another emotional workout that suggested Wild Seed-Wild Flower had only hinted at her vast vocal range. Even “Food for Thought” suggested textures that were not as pronounced on Wild Seed-Wild Flower. Farris flexed her vocal muscle even more on “Fair”, a song from her forthcoming release, On Top of the World before enlisting the audience as background singers for the definitive fan favorite, “Hopeless”.
Farris closed the show with “For U”, the single from her most recent release, Signs of Life (2008). She recounted the story of how writing the tune with Jamey Jazz led her to penning something of a mantra: “Matter not how many trees that you see/Matter how beautiful the ones you see be.” Returning to the stage for an encore of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” (a cover that appeared on Wild Seed-Wild Flower), Dionne Farris showed, unequivocally, that her numerous vocal and artistic gifts run as deep as the roots of a Sequoia.
Images by Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo