Tye Tribbett in Concert at Sony Hall in NYC

Perpetual energy is defined at Dictionary.com as, “the motion of a theoretical mechanism that, without any losses due to friction or other forms of dissipation of energy, would continue to operate indefinitely at the same rate without any external energy being applied to it....” After seeing Tuesday night’s show at Sony Hall we would narrow that definition down to two words: Tye Tribbett.

Of course, Tye didn’t come to the concert venue alone. The stage of the comfortable and attractively-decorated venue was filled edge-to-edge with Tribbett’s troupe of six singer/dancers sup-ported by instrumentalists, which included drums (James Nelson III), bass (Morgan Turner), guitar (the aforementioned Jabari Johnson), and keyboard (James Harris III) augmented by Kevin Woods, Frank Rein, and Yesseh Furaha-Ali on horns. P.T. Barnum’s got nothing on this showman...

The concert opened (an hour late) with guitarist/singer Jabari Johnson, who alternated soulful vocals with searing guitar solos. The left handed Jabari is in good company - no less than Albert King, Eric Gales, and Jimi Hendrix share the trait.

The energy kicked up several notches as the lanky, frenetic Tribbett took to the stage, immediately possessing the length of it, stage left to stage right. Frequently ending up at the very edge of the extended stage platform, in front of monitors and extending himself beyond the footprint of the stage lights, photographing Tribbett was like trying to capture lightening in a bottle (my better efforts accompany this review). At any given moment, Tye and his crew of singers literally had both feet off the ground, combining choreographed and spontaneous dance moves in a controlled frenzy of praise and entertainment

It would be a disservice to simply call Monica Arrington, Kameron Brown, Mumen Ngenge, Robert Rivera, DeMaris Toy and Sharon Willingham ‘backup singers,’ because they do so much more than provide simple back-up. Aside from providing harmony and occasional lead vocals, the six energetic members of the ‘back-line’ decorate the performances with choreographed and improvised dance moves. In fact, all six pairs of feet were simultaneously off the ground many times during the show.

Opening with “You Are Everything” and “Already Won,” Tye and his troupe tore through some fifteen songs, several of which (like “I Can Make It”) becoming mini-sermons that roused the audience from their seats and tables. “Sinking,” “He Turned It,” “I Made It Through,” and of course, “Victory,” repeatedly brought the crowd to its feet, dancing, singing, and feeling The Spirit.

Surprise guest Robert Randolph (Robert Randolph and The Family Band) took to the stage and joined Tribbett and his band for several songs. The eccentric pedal steel guitarist is an area native and was listed as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 greatest guitarists,” as well as being praised by the likes of no less than Eric Clapton. Randolph’s soaring solos introduced yet another level of revival-meeting energy into Tribbett’s music. 

The high-energy performance walked a tightrope between gospel and hip-hop, with Tribbett frequently going Old-School, turning Tuesday night at Sony Hall into Sunday morning at church. There was more than one gospel break-down, with Tye and the audience getting their steps in and definitely ‘getting their praise on.’

Tribbett’s controlled frenzy, musical savvy, and gospel message make for a visceral experience that leaves you both exhilarated and drained – and most definitely entertained. Apparently, there’s interest in having Tye bring this all to the Broadway stage – an interesting proposition, given the immediacy and spontaneity of the gospel message and the restrictions of the ‘legitimate’ theater format. It seems like it would take a small miracle to work. But then again, Tye would be the first to point out that miracles are what God works with all the time….

* Bert Saraco

* You can see more images from this concert, and of many others at: