The 2003 Neo Soul Explosion Concert series concluded Oct. 3 at the DuSable Museum of African American History, with the singer Kem. He was scheduled to appear Aug. 15; however, this summer's electrical blackout left him stranded on the East Coast. Rescheduling was nothing short of a miracle for Cornerstone Marketing Strategies, the company responsible for the Neo Soul events, but their hard work and diligence paid off. Kem was welcomed by two sold-out shows.
Performing songs from his new release Kemistry, this self-taught musician proved that some people in the music industry still have unadulterated talent. The six-piece band musically introduced itself to the audience. Just as it seemed that they could carry on without him, he entered singing, reminding everyone why they had come. Then he sat front and center at his Motif 8 keyboard and played with the comfort and confidence of a seasoned entertainer, opening with 'Brotha Man,' a song that suggests life's struggles and appreciation for overcoming them.
Kem's vocal style reflected a range of emotions through the way he moved through the scales, gently tapping notes along the way. At times his voice resembled a trumpet revealing the vulnerabilities of life's ups and downs, sometimes coming close to a man's cry. Yet, in the turn of a note he'd reveal life's passion and triumphs. He sang seven songs from his CD, including his hit, 'Love Calls,' slow-dancing on stage with a woman from the audience. Although she was at least four inches taller than his petite frame, the moment captured the strength of his confidence and the romanticism of his music.
Kem played an extended version of the song 'Say' as people swayed back and forth in testimony. However, his jazzy song 'I'm Missin' Your Love' with its underlying jazz flavor, showed his uniqueness and abilities to be his own man behind the microphone. It seems like the humanistic elements of love and life have all but been removed from urban radio; Kem has become a celebration of hope and spirituality.
Ledisi was the surprise opening act for the show. This West Coast singer is also a bonafide entertainer. Virtually unknown in the Midwest, appearing with her musical collaborator, Sundra Manning, on keyboards and two Chicago musicians she picked up just hours earlier on bass and drums, Ledisi made her mark through her repartee and singing. Performing material from her CD, Soul Singer, she charmed the audience and left them screaming for more.