It was the first show on opening night and one of great expectations: Rachelle Ferrell was in the house. The anticipation and excitement of showtime ran high and was felt deep in the bone marrow. Finally introduced to the stage, the crowd went wild at just the mention of her name. Rachelle Ferrell fans know how to show their love. The band counted off, and the tiny diva with the colossal voice made her way down the stairs, through the screaming crowd, and onto the stage. Caught up in the rapture of the love from the audience and the funky groove from her band (Billy Odom on guitar, Eric Brown on drums, Raymond McKinley on bass, Morris Pleasure on keys, and the man who made it all sound so good to our ears, sound engineer, Terry Jackson), she closed her eyes and proceeded to get her party on, shaking a serious tail feather – looking lovely in her shimmering dress and feeling fancy free - as a packed house wildly cheered her on. It was as if she were expressing, in her dance, the words she interpreted in the song that put her name on the map, many years before: "Welcome to my love… welcome to my life… come on in and make yourself at home."
With everyone all warmed up, she took a moment to speak about living in the present, and appreciating and loving life, she then opened her set with, "Satisfied", and sounding wonderful as ever, she let it RIP! Spellbound, we hung onto every wail, squeak, squeal, vocal run, and improvisation for dear life. What's astounding is she often sings them all in ridiculously high octaves with remarkable ease, and her breath control is beyond belief! Shouts of, "Alright now!", "Go on girl!” filled the place as she contorted her face, opened wide her mouth, and hit notes so stupendously loud and with such awesome power that it made your insides quiver! A few audience members in view, who were too moved for words, looked on in wide-eyed amazement. The highlight of the moment, was when she finished the song and "filed it away on her hard drive", improvising vocally (and spot on), how it would sound to save a song onto a computer hard drive. It was brilliance, creativity and spontaneity to the 10th power! It's the kind of complete musicianship that her peers deeply respect and pay close attention to (Mark Kibble, of the Grammy-award winning group, Take 6, who was in the house, told me that he was taking notes! How cool is that?)
Rachelle's rapport with her audience is warm, down-home, playful, and fun. She loves to converse with them. Some of those conversations might be comically SUNG if the spirit moves her! And if it's your birthday, she will even sing her new song, appropriately titled, "Birthday" to YOU! Three lucky ladies in the audience can attest to this, as they were treated to an up-close-and-personal serenade that sounded sweeter than any birthday cake could ever taste! It was so sweet, that more than a few men in the audience felt left out, and started shouting up to her that it was their birthday too! But she did one better by ecstatically announcing that after 10 years, she is back in the studio recording a new CD, and that guests include: Lalah Hathaway, Kenny Lattimore, and Ledisi, just to name a few! The audience went berserk with excitement at the news. A personal highlight of the evening was a relaxed Rachelle performing the soul-stirring, "Sister", while taking sips of water between intricately woven notes, breaking it down in song about the strength and power of what it is to be a woman. The ladies nodded, shouted, and threw their hands up in confirmation, losing ourselves in the story she was telling, while the men took mental notes. It was a very moving and empowering moment, and the standing ovation she received was thunderous!
For the remainder of the evening, we were treated to a medley of the "old stuff" (as she put it), performing a devastating, scat-a-licious version of, "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" - just Rachelle’s voice and Raymond's bass, paying homage to the rich musical legacies of the giants who came before. Sitting down and becoming one with her piano, she wowed us with a silky and slower, "Sentimental", sung so tenderly, she lulled the audience to complete silence; "Peace On Earth", that took us to church and made someone shout, "SHE'S SANGIN' THAT!!"; "With Open Arms", that brought the crowd to its feet; and masterfully performing both her and Will Downing's vocal parts on the classic, "Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This", ending the set. The highlight of that moment was a lady in the audience taking it upon herself to sing (out loud) an ad-lib that Rachelle didn't sing. Taken just a little by surprise, Rachelle turned in the direction where the sound came from, smiled, gave the lady her props, and continued to sing her face off. After the show, as we poured out into the night with the wind knocked out of us from being thoroughly entertained, it was apparent to all, that Rachelle Ferrell is on another, HIGHER plane...the real deal...fierce... exceeding ANY and ALL expectations!
About the Writer
Holly Fountain is a music and concert enthusiast and an avid collector of vinyl and CD’s from the 60’s and '70s. In her spare time, she enjoys writing concert reviews in her own entertaining and unconventional style.