The Relatives - Ben E. Keith World Stage - 3/3/12

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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.

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