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Concert Review: What’s Going on NOW A Tribute to Marvin Gaye @ Kennedy Center

Photos courtesy of Derek Baker

One of the musical princes of Washington D.C. received his flowers on Friday, June 16, at the world-renowned Kennedy Center when The NSO celebrated fifty years of Marvin Gaye's iconic album What's Going On. Steven Reineke was the conductor of the star-studded concert event.

The vocalists featured were Bilal, Luke James, Cory Henry, Joshua Henry, Michelle Williams, and Emily King. True Gaye enthusiasts know that the artist seldom performed the entirety of What's Going On. Nevertheless, an exemption took place on May 1, 1972, at this venue where tonight's tribute is taking place.

The show had two parts. During the event's first half, Marvin and his favorite duet partner, Tammy Terre, were celebrated. The second half featured male vocalists and the NSO performing the What's Going On album. However, before the vocalists sang a note, spoken word poet Marc Bamuthi delivered powerful words to set the mood.

Joshua Henry kicked things off with an elegant "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" performance, with Emily King joining him shortly after. It was a wonderful transition into "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," which Michelle Williams performed. Williams stayed on stage, bringing out Luke James for an "If This World Were Mind" performance that brought the house down.

The show's first half moved along sparingly, with each performer adding flavor to Marvin's legendary songs. Bilal performed "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" with Emily King. Luke James dueted with King for "Your Precious Love," while King and Corey Henry put a spin on "You're All I Need." The final song during the first was "California Soul," which Joshua Henry performed.

After a brief intermission, the performance of "What's Going On" began. Luke James was up first, putting his foot in the album's title track and "What's Happening, Brother." The soul-stirring vocals of Bilal were a religious experience on "Flying High (In The Friendly Sky)" and "Save the Children."

While Cory Henry sang and played the keys on "God Is Love" and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)." The latter song also featured a killer sax solo. Joshua Henry closed the night outperforming the album's final three songs, "Right On," "Wholy Holy," and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)."

I want to acknowledge and praise the talented youth poets from 826DC, Shout Mouse Press, and Words, Beats & Life organizations in Washington, D.C. They graced the audience with their inspiring words before the musical performances.

The tribute to Marvin Gaye was a great night out, and hopefully, it will set the stage for tributes to more iconic R&B albums.

Final Grade: A

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