Sunday, September 30, 2018

Concert Review: Lonnie Holley in Swope Park

An ugly truth was revealed 25 minutes into Lonnie Holley’s appearance in Swope Park on the afternoon of Saturday, September 29. More than 100 name tag-wearing people who were part of a Kansas City art tour affiliated with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art left the concert and boarded buses that were parked near the pavilion hosting weekend presentations for the Open Spaces festival. Less than 20 people remained. The small group of Holley’s fans and Open Spaces staff members witnessed an amazing performance.

The music of the celebrated artist with an extraordinary backstory is equal parts Moondog, Nina Simone and Sun Ra. Accompanied by Dave Nelson’s looped trombone and Marlon Patton’s drumming (both men also triggered electronic effects), Holley shouted, pleaded, whispered and whistled as he played keyboards on loose compositions about the presence of God, the nature of time, an epidemic of sorrow and the sacrifices of our forefathers. A piece about emotional and electrical currents resembled an avant-garde version of “Wichita Lineman.” The hypnotic resonance of Holley’s cosmic gospel raised my spirits even as it moved me to tears.

Heavy traffic for The Illusionists show at Starlight Theatre made exiting Swope Park difficult. The professional magicians are entertaining tricksters (my review of a 2016 show by the Illusionists), but I left the park knowing that I’d witnessed Holley conjure real magic.

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)

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