Higher power: Music inspires, transcends

Arrested Development
Starr Hill Music Hall
Wednesday, June 10

Growing up, my mother insisted I attend church. I could easily think of better things to do than dozing in a pew during three hour sessions of song, scripture, and sermon.

Every once and a while being dragged out of bed for our Sunday ritual wasn't that bad. As if in sync with unexplainable cosmic gears, something magical would occur. The band would play exceptionally well with the choir who sang so passionately that everyone in the room (including me) could not help but stomp, clap, and sing along. Even the minister (whose animated antics usual bored me) would deliver his discourse so fluidly that I felt energized and inspired on into the next week.

"Days like these are the reason we go to church every Sunday," my mother would say to me contentedly on the drive home.

***

"Take me to another place. Take me to another land. Let me forget all that hurts me. Let me understand your plan."

Those were the words that first touched a million listeners across the globe a decade ago. When Arrested Development first dropped that single, "Tennessee," the collective hip hop/pop conscious was rerouted. But it wasn't until this past Wednesday at Starr Hill that I finally realized what the song really meant. Arrested Development was more than just afro-centric, gospel-tinged breakbeat junkies. They were revivalists.

No one in the sold-out crowd could help but raise their hands as if they were being held at gunpoint. Unlike a corner store stick up, the audience was forced to let go of their trivial daily concerns and personal stresses. Armed with a drummer, DJ, bass player, and two female singers/dancers, Speech (the lead man) took the audience on a spiritual journey. Classic songs like "Mr. Wendle," "People Everyday," nostalgic renditions of Sly Stone, and a breathtaking version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" intertwined throughout a seamless set of new material kept the audience engrossed until the very last note.

***

I no longer attend church. Over the years I have experienced that same, special, once-in-a-while sensation doing many different things. Like my experiences in church, music doesn't always touch me with ethereal energy. Yet I still find myself out every week in search of that feeling. Nine times out of 10 I wish I were doing something else. Last Wednesday, Arrested Development reminded me of why I continue to involve myself, religiously, in music's existence.