Concert Sutra: Arrested Development in 2006
Written by terri sapp
Photographed by Leah Yetter
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
After an extreme roller coaster of a year like 2005, and having gotten into a New Years rut, we needed a major way to bid adieu this year. When we found out that Arrested Development was headlining one of the largest New Year’s Eve events in Atlanta, Downtown Countdown, we knew that was the one. Downtown Countdown not only happens in Atlanta, but also in Baltimore, Washington D.C., as well as other choice cities over the years. This year, I believe that Atlanta brought the party with “Life Music” specialists, Arrested Development. The Downtown Countdown at Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Georgia was definitely THE place to be this New Year’s Eve, with Arrested Development ringing in 2006 with a spiritual vengeance!
Downtown Countdown in Baltimore consisted of many main event bands, including SR-71, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Kelly Bell Band, Fools & Horses, Plunge, Jah Works, Crushing Day, Right Foot Red, Dickinson (acoustic), Kim Hall & Jodi Harman (acoustic), And Doug Segree (acoustic). Baltimore offered DJs Kode Bleuu, Retro, & DJ VIP. In addition, the NFL Baltimore Raven’s Cheerleaders joined the party at Big Night Baltimore! Baltimore had eleven themed party areas set up for party goers enjoyment, as well as five dance floors! Balloons dropped around midnight.
Washington DC’s Downtown Countdown worked in various acts for celebrating the New Year. Cowboy Mouth, The Pat McGee Band, Kenin, were all on the main stage. The midnight balloon drop and DJs also happened on the main stage. The Boogie Nights, Rude Buddha, and Welbilt graced the Second Stage, as well as karaoke in the Georgetown Room.
The biggest and best of all of the Downtown Countdowns this year was no doubt happening in Atlanta. Besides the main course, Arrested Development, we were joined by DJ Joel, The Zac Brown Band, and the Dave Matthews Cover Band on the main stage. Zydeco T, Zydefunk, and Cigar Store Indians played the Mardi Gras Lounge. DJ Jammin’ Dave made up Club Bacardi, which turned out to be a great deal of fun, with booties gyrating, humping a plenty, and hoochies bent over mouthing the words to the latest nasty club jam. On the Atlanta Idol Stage was 13 Stories and Metalsome Monday-Rock n Roll Karaoke Band. Unique to Downtown Countdown, Atlanta supplied the Showcase Comedy Lounge with folks in and out all night to enjoy the laughter with comedians Chelcie Rice, Tony SanAntonio, Jed Fearon, and Shawn Lesser. Not to mention the open bars and wonderful buffets, that both proved to be of the utmost importance to commemorate the turning of the New Year to the fullest (and without headache). Included on the buffet were early appetizers (imported and domestic cheeses served with different breads, fruits and vegetables and spinach, onion and hummus dips), an Asian station (with Chicken Satays & Spicy Peanut Sauce, spring rolls with sweet chili soy sauce, five ingredient friend rice), a pasta station (with Rotini & Penne tossed with Italian Sausage & peppers with garlic alfredo or spicy arrabiata sauce), Rounds of beef with varied sauces, and even a late night breakfast after Arrested Development (serving scrambled eggs, apple smoked bacon, pastries, coffee and juice)! SCRUMPTIOUS!!! Now that’s what I call a party!
Just after midnight, there was chaos, followed by the biggest collective balloon drop around. Once all the kissing and toasting subsided, the crowd begged for Arrested Development to bring the night home. First out was Baba Oje, the band’s 73 year old Spiritual Advisor, and general Vibe booster. His energy is unmatchable! He must do yoga or drink from the fountain of youth, because with the way he jumps around and dances, one might think he was not a day over forty. I suppose the occasional nap in his rocking chair onstage may help with his puerile appearance. The band pumps out a bluesy intro, and Baba Oje wishes all a Happy New Year and Peace! Omar Phillips (drums), Jason Reichert (guitar), and Za (bass) set the tone for Wanda (?I think that is what he said?)(dancer, vocals), Eshe (dancer, vocals), Rasadon (drummer, vocals), One Love (rapper, vocals), and Speech (vocals, turntables) to break loose. I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of association in human emotion. On this night, just the sight of a familiar old soul, enjoying life with his family of artists was enough for me to slip right into the mood for a little Chuch! Arrested Development style.
From day one, “Give a Man a Fish” has been one of Arrested Development’s many poignant songs. “You can’t be passive, gotta be active. Can’t go with what looks attractive…Give a man a fish. He’ll eat for a day. Teach ‘em how to fish and he’ll eat forever…Got to get political. Political I gotta get. Grown but can’t hold my own. So this government needs to be overthrown.” This politically charged anthem was a tremendous takeoff. “Dawn of the Dreads” accented One Love and his smooth way of backing up his main man Speech. Their styles blend flawlessly, and make for wordplay at its finest. The two girls, Eshe and Wendy (I think he said), added a special energy to the show. The Afro-centric dancing is primal and evokes a deep spirituality. Everyone on stage brought superior vocal stylings, which made for an all around pleasant time. So many of Arrested Development’s songs have spoken to me over the years, and lucky for me I got to hear most of them on New Year’s Eve. “Fishin’ for Religion” hits very close to my home. “The reason I’m fishin for a new religion is my church makes me fall asleep…so on the dock I sit in silence, staring at a sea that’s full of violence. Scared to put my line in that water, cuz it seems like no religions in there…” I was fishin for religion on New Year’s Eve, and found it (at least the “church” part) in Arrested Development. I felt like I was involved in a worship session! After a brief Sly and the Family Stone break, Speech and his crew were first in line to “Ease My Mind” at this party of all parties! One Love gets a chance to be heard on this classic Arrested Development tune.
Eshe amazed me the way she commanded the stage with leaps and bounds! Her presence is undeniable. “Africa’s Inside Me” embodies everything this band stands for, and I love it! Baba Oje had his moments of dancing into my heart, then he would just chill out and seemingly take a quick nap with his feet propped, right on stage, no kidding! With that, the forceful female vocals that are so recognized as the intro to “Tennessee.” The crowd goes wild! For a band that doesn’t get out to entertain us as much as some others that saturate the market with tour after tour, Arrested Development performs as if they have been playing every night since the last time I saw them in 2001. Since the first time I saw them play in 1993, I have longed for more of their “cultural-southern-hiphop-folk-ethnic-funk.” The one who always made an impression on me has been Baba Oje! He is as lively now as he ever was…even twelve years later!
Now that I have professed my love for the elder of the crew, I feel I must speak on the man up front, Speech. First of all, he is SO CUTE! His smile is uplifting, which he shares freely. Additionally, he seems to be a plethora of positivity and sensuality presented in such a beautifully compact package. Aside from the usual superficial BS, Speech goes so deep into the soul with his lyrics and vocals, it’s hard to keep focused on anything but what is spilling from his lips. Especially on “Natural!” All the girls wish he was singing to them. Of course, just in the niche of time, Speech goes in for the kill on my heart by breaking out a Bob Marley classic, “Redemption Song.” What a perfect sing along for a drunken New Year’s mob. Of course, they added their own flare with the drums and backing vocals. Who isn’t effected by “Redemption Song?” “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” When I went looking for the optimum fun I could possibly have on my celebration of the coming of 2006, I could have never expected that I would get a taste of Mr. Marley! I especially love the calypso flavored ending. If that weren’t enough to keep me going, they broke into a 2006 version of Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” A proper memorialization of moving on from the oppressive 2005! A perfect follow up…both “songs of freedom.”
No song is more recognizable than “Mr. Wendal” for Arrested Development. They had the whole joint singing along and dancing to the beat. My favorite time was during this song when everyone yelled out “Go Baba, Go Baba!” and Baba Oje danced and rejoiced. Eshe then invited a crew on the stage for a bit of group dance. Za then had an entire segment devoted to his bass solo. He brought the funk, the Spanish dance, the blues, and then a tease of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean! I know as soon as I hear the harmonica ring out that I have finally gotten my gem, “Mama’s Always On Stage.” “Can’t be a revolution without women. Can’t be a revolution without children…Words of wisdom should be ways of wisdom! That’s exactly how you must walk. Life’s too short your missions too dire, nurture another mind before yours expires.” Eshe is definitely on stage!
We got, as a finale, “People Everyday.” This oldie goldie evidences Speech’s amazing flow. He definitely has a sound all his own. These guys had the audience participation down tight by the end of the evening (or should I say morning)…Speech even said they did a lot of their old music for Atlanta, special. What a fabulous way to ring in my New Year! Come on, 2006!
For more information on what Speech and Arrested Development are up to, visit http://www.speechmusic.com/. Try to catch Arrested Development at one of their following upcoming shows: January 10, 2006 at the 3rd Annual Ski Jam in Steamboat Springs, Colorado; January 11, 2006 at the Fox Theatre and Café in Boulder, Colorado; January 27, 2006 at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, New York; and March 29, 2006 at the Middle East Extreme Sports Show in Dubai, UAE. No matter where they are set up, Arrested Development is sure to elevate your general being with their song and dance.
For a look at the Atlanta Downtown Countdown, and Leah and I ringing in the New Year with friends, go to: http://www.concertsutra.com/csnye06/. On the way to our event, we spoke about how we always seem to run into unexpected friends at shows, so when our old friend, Tracie, snuck up on us, I knew it was ON! Funny, we have spent New Year’s together for the past few years, so it was fortuitous to just happen to end up together without even planning! Regardless, I was so glad to see 2005 go forever that celebrating its passing came as easy as counting down from ten!