By Ernest Barteldes
What’s Going On?
Marvin Gaye Tribute
Directed by Felicia Collins
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn
August 9, 2019
After a foot-stomping DJ set by Natasha Diggs, bandleader Felicia Collins took to the stage backed by an all-female 16-piece band to pay tribute to Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971 album What’s Going on, starting off with the title track with lead vocals by Collins. The arrangement was close to the original recording with a few variations, but her vocals were very soulful, taking the lyrics, written from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran after his return home, to a different, more updated place.
With the participation of various singers, they went through the album track by track, continuing the story Gaye told in the album. There was little improvisation – a common occurrence at tribute shows, but there were some great individual moments , since each individual vocalist sought to leave their personal imprint, and that was evident with Kennedy, who sang lead on several numbers – but the one that stayed with me was gutarist Felicia Collins, who stole most of the show with her performances and her dexterity on guitar.
I was hoping the band would expand more into Gaye’s catalogue and include other songs from his career – it would have been thrilling to hear “Ain’t No Mountain High,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” or other tunes, but this was a strict tribute to his most famous album. It was nice to have the musicians showcased on the theme reprise following “Inner City Blues,” where every musician did a little of improvisation as the show closed.
It was the last show of the season for me – I was unable to attend the closing performance the following day, but it was again a great season for BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn – the performances I was able to attend were all memorable, and here’s looking for the next year.