The Impressions, TV on the Radio, Mavis Staples, Sinead O’Connor, The Roots and More Pay Tribute to Curtis Mayfield
An all-star list of musicians including members The Roots and TV on the Radio, Sinead O’Connor, Mavis Staples, William Bell and more came together this past Friday to pay tribute to the late soul legend Curtis Mayfield. Taking place as part of New York City’s Lincoln Center Festival, the concert, titled “Here But I’m Gone,” was held in honor of what would have been the year of Mayfield’s 70th birthday.
Led by the evening’s musical director, Dap-Kings guitarist Binky Griptite, the musicians—among whom were also the remaining members of Mayfield’s former group The Impressions—ran through the staples of Mayfield’s repertoire. However, one noticeable exclusion from the evening’s setlist was perhaps the legendary soul singer’s most notable song, the title track from the 1972 Blaxploitation film Superfly.
The evening opened with a version of “Right on for the Darkness,” performed by the house band (which included Dr. Lonnie Smith on Hammond B3 along with members of Dap-Kings, Superhuman Happiness and more) before The Impressions took the stage to perform classics like “We’re a Winner,” “Keep on Pushing,” “People Get Ready,” “Choice of Colors” along with a rendition of “Gypsy Woman” with help from Stax recording legend William Bell. Fellow Stax alumn Mavis Staples appeared next to perform Mayfield classics like “This Is My Country,” “Let’s Do It Again,” as well as a collaboration with Bell and The Impressions on “It’s Alright.”
The show then saw the soul veterans pass the torch to a younger generation of performers (aside from Irish songstress Sinead O’Connor) like Ryan Montbleau (who played “Here But I’m Gone”), Inyang Bassey (who wowed the crowd with a take on “Darker Than Blue”), Aloe Blacc, Meshell Ndegeocello and Bilal.
Toward the end of the show, the evening’s most casually dressed performers, TV On the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, delivered a rousing version of “Kung Fu” before O’Connor performed takes on “Jesus” and “Billy Jack.” The set closed with a version of “If There’s a Hell Below,” performed by Questlove and guitarist “Captain” Kirk Douglas of The Roots, as well as tuba player Damon Bryson.
To conclude the tribute concert, all the evening’s musicians joined together on a collaborative rendition of the Mayfield classic “Move On Up.”