Esperanza Spalding Delights and Enlightens at Ravinia
It is truly rare nowadays to be in the presence of authentically impressive musical
talent but Ravinia was the place to be dazzled on a chilly summer night by Ms.
The work on her most recent studio release, Radio Music Society, was the central theme to her performance at the Highland Park venue with selections such as Michael Jackson’s I Can’t Help It (fittingly performed on the third anniversary of MJ’s death), Land of the Free, Endangered Species, City of Roses, Black Gold, and several others.
Ms. Spaulding’s voice – and her beautiful natural tresses – enchanted her audience as she wove in stories of love and loss, respect and royalty, and even some social commentary about the recent Trayvon Martin tragedy and the unrelenting stereotypes that exist for young, black males in the world. It was this part of her performance where the audience’s apprehension to the topic was palpable. Those season ticket holders in the pavilion who were swaying their heads to the music were suddenly erect when Ms. Spaulding got “all political” with her music.
A true talent alternating between bass and electronic guitar while she soothed the audience’s ears with the new jazz fusion she has become associated with, it was clear why she bested Justin Bieber in 2011 for the Best New Artist Grammy. She also shared a message about justice and encouraged the crowd to join her in support of causes such as The Innocence Project to make sure those who have been jailed unjustly are set free as well as her Free the Slaves movement to end slavery worldwide. Her live performance was an exquisite delight and as a listener, you feel wonderful knowing you are being entertained as well as informed.