The Relatives Ben E. Keith World Stage Saturday, March 3
The headline of Wilonsky's opening night post sort of summed it up: The Margaret Hunt Hill bridge to-do, for many, was about back-patting and drinking and essentially celebrating an unfinished project that's cost the city seven years and close to $200 million. Furthermore, the $200 price tag to see Lyle Lovett on Friday night effectively shut out many folks in West Dallas, the very neighborhood the bridge is trying to "unite." There's a word for that.
The opening of the Calatrava seemed to divide a lot of people with its extravagance, something I thought about every time I hit a pothole in East Dallas, which is roughly every two minutes. There was a big ol' Texas flag flying in front of the bridge, which certainly made for a nice postcard photo-op, especially with that fantastic sunset Saturday afternoon. It was also a reminder that when it does open, it will only allow vehicular traffic, not pedestrian or bicycle traffic. Ah, Dallas. We want to show off our toys and feel important, but a sense of community still eludes us.
That The Relatives, a group originating in West Dallas four decades ago, played for free that day -- and not even actually on the bridge -- illustrated another divide. The crowd for Lovett was five times as big as that for The Relatives, which is a goddamn shame, but I get it -- they're relatively unknown here.
Oh, but The Relatives. I'm going to go out on a limb and say if you missed them, you missed something historic.The group is in the midst of its second act, and it was a glorious thing to behold.
The 10-piece walked on stage and right into the extended intro of "Let Your Light Shine," the five main Relatives dressed in matching blue and yellow suits.Their hard R&B electrified "Evil World," showcasing the four distinct voices of the Reverend Gean West, his brother Tommy, son Cedric and Tyron Edwards. Slow jam "Leave Something Worthwhile" took on a new meaning as the bridge loomed directly behind them.
The Relatives verged on the psychedelic towards the end of the set. Signature tune "Don't Let Me Fall" turned into a 15-minute jam, as Tommy got the entire crowd moving as one, his role as a preacher bleeding into that of singer. "Let's Rap" followed suit, Gean taking lead vocals, handling both the funk and gospel sides.Tommy came over mid-song to help him remove his jacket, as he seemed to be channeling something higher, growling and whooping as the spirit moved him. They bridged a cultural divide, all ages and races coming together to bear witness.
By the way: Heavy Light Records' Noel Waggener pointed out the woman who actually come across that rare Relatives 45 at Antone's Records a decade ago, then passing it on to him. She was there in the crowd, and it felt like things had come full circle.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.