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Flying Lotus At Carnegie Hall, Saturday, February 12th, 2022, Reviewed

At Carnegie Hall last night something happened that has never happened before. Flying Lotus (real name Steven Ellison) standing on a creamy white stage and wearing a white dishdasha, used closed circuit TV as part of light show that accompanied the electronic wizard’s digital meets analog 90 minute concert. Many times I’ve thought Carnegie Hall needed close circuit TV, why should I not be allowed to see what’s happening because all I can afford is the cheap seats; now I’ve seen how beautiful the stage can be, I certainly hope the Tibet House finally gets with it. The sold out audience was enthralled and while I found the performance enervating, I often find FlyLo better in background, it was quite a show and if not an introduction to Afrofuturism, still close enough to fit.

Ah yes, Afrofuturism…

Afrofuturism is where African American artists have taken their art, movies, music, animation, to study tomorrow may be less about a movement of the earth’s crust and more about changing the way art may look in 2070. If you watch old New York based movies from the 30s, 40s, people of color tend to be the porters and shoe shiners, relegated to the side of the side -a real pity because black people look better in black and white than white people and we should have seen more. So while as defined Afrofuturism has nothing to do more than a vision of an artistically wide ranging deep where black people are not the first to die when aliens invade a spaced, it is also necessary.

It is horrid to realize the 100 years of modern movie making has been so fucking white, Asian Americans, Latin Americans and Puerto Ricans, not to mention homosexuals, lesbians, Autism, disabled, and more, have been always to the side. How many black people are there in Bedford Falls? How about on San Juan Hill in both 1961 and 2021? One? None?

Into this void steps Carnegie Hall who are curating a series of concerts, films, lectures and more, throughout this city that started in early February and ends in early April. Looking through the events, only two names standout, Sun Ra Arkestra is one, Flying Lotus the other.

With a beautiful light show that bleeds off the stages wall and into the sides, Flying Lotus was joined by Miguel Atwood Ferguson on violin and Brandee Young on harp, the trio constructed a world where digital met analog. FlyLo was both distant and friendly with an open smile, and also submerged in the sounds he was creating, opening with an ambient dream of chirping birds and deep sound mellow and eventually moving on to the sort of music we expect from Flying Lotus, the beats become harder and the tumbling down wall of sound transcends the stage. While Flying Lotus is well versed in jazz – Alice Coltrane is his Great-Aunt, he comes out of the Odd Future posse, raps himself under the name Captain Murphy, and has presence enough as the center of attention. In a recent interview he claimed to be used to performing at all night raves, hard to be further away from the vibe at Carnegie.

But if this wasn’t EDM it was certainly immersed in Afrobeats, The echo-y beats are the heart of the matter, and as the show continued he made them more prevalent, especially while mining his soundtrack album from last year, Yasuke, with “Black Gold” (featuring bassist Thundercat -who wasn’t there, neither was Kendrick Lamar though we heard his voice). It was magical in the same way as listening to a song you love on a long drive in the backseat of a car is magical. There is a dissonance between what he does as an EDM DJ and what he does as a sound lover where the art is the overlapping samples making something totally different. Beautiful to listen to and yet, certainly if you are used to at the best semi-pop, this artistic manifesto is not going to grab you even as the visuals might.

Grade: B

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