Make it good: Food for thought x 3

Lyrics Ave, Richelle Claiborne, Etchings of Soul Women 
at Live Arts
Saturday, August 28

I have come under a lot of fire recently for some comments I made about the new G. Love album. Apparently he has a large Internet fan base I've made madder than Republicans forced to participate in a community food drive.

Apparently, as a critic, one is not supposed to have an opinion. Should we just give every performer glowing reviews? If we did that, people wouldn't take us seriously about anything.

No. By having an opinion, you provide a means for comparison. For instance. I love Ebert and Roper. I also recognize that Ebert lacks any sense of humor. Therefore, his opinion about comedies is worthless. So if Ebert gives a comedy a bad mark, I usually go out and see it. Am I making sense here?

Critics and opinions have existed and always will exist. It's the job of the reader to know the critic and then analyze and form their own opinion. If you don't want to take the time, just ignore us.

People's opinions are what make them unique. And even if I don't personally agree with the way someone thinks, I know that personal experiences have shaped his perspective, and therefore, I can respect it. Through that respect, a dialogue between us can occur. Through that dialogue, we may find similarities in our differences– reasons to laugh and cry at the same things.

I was privileged to attend a healthy dialogue Saturday, August 28, at Live Arts. The event was hosted by AIDS/HIV Services Group (ASG) as a fund raiser and information source. We were honored with performances by Richmond artist collective Lyrics Ave, Charlottesville phenom Richelle Claiborne, and a one-act play, Etchings of Soul Women, by a VCU acting troupe.

Lyrics Ave boasts a "dynamic mix of poetry song, hip hop, comedy, and theater and seek to unite humanity through common interests."

The group consists of six members who take turns reciting clever spoken word pieces that drew loud laughter and provoked intense thought. The spoken word pieces ranged from abstract meandering about life, to soulful song, to concrete stories. I was instantly drawn into the Lyrics Ave world as soon as the first performer began his piece. Their set also included a bit of sketch comedy, "The Ghetto Dating Game," a hilarious piece that would have had Chuck Woolery doubled over.

Richelle Claiborne took the stage with guitarist Tucker Rogers for a 15-minute display of why she's what Hollywood people call a "triple threat." She began with a song called "I Hate You," a somber melody with melancholy lyrics– a big shift in direction from the high-energy comedy of Lyrics Ave.

Richelle has a deep alto voice that pulled from the deepest core of her being. The crowd responded with empathy as Tucker's guitar effortlessly mirrored her vocals. Three poems, also accompanied by Tucker, dealt with sex, love, and pain.

Etchings of Soul Women is an emotional roller coaster through the ups and downs of womanhood– songs, interpretive dance, and straight-up monologues delivered by four VCU drama majors with the execution of seasoned pros.

Fascinated, I watched the disbelieving audience expressions as the troupe enacted a rape scene simultaneously with a passionate love scene, and listened to the "oohs" that rang out when two women kissed. It's one of those plays everyone should see, critique, and discuss.

If those G. Love fans could have seen this performance and read this review, they would know what kind of critic I am: one who enjoys provocative music and art. I'm not one to fawn over artists who make music "for the fun of it."

Maybe next time they read my column, they won't be surprised if I show no love for their favorite "artist."

Tucker Rogers and Richelle Claiborne at Live Arts