A tour’s first shows can be hit or miss, Nahko and Medicine for the People hit a home run on their first step to the plate by kicking off the Water For Life Tour in fantastic fashion.
Sporting a haircut that one fan called “raccoon like,” Dustin Thomas set the bar high with a top tier acoustic performance. Stepping out of his Medicine for the People bassist role, Thomas starred in spotlight, making it seem like he was the headliner, not the opener.
Apparently channeling his inner Kanye West, Thomas took to the mic in the middle of his set for a 10-minute pitch to the crowd. The passion was evident, and the message was clear – wake up before it’s too late. At times it was a little over the top but Thomas spoke his mind and he spoke it loudly. Parts of the crowd tuned him out but a significant portion hung on his every word. “Preach,” they yelled, which only fueled Thomas’s fire. There’s no doubt in my mind that his words struck a chord with many.
And that wasn’t the only trick Thomas had up his sleeve. Out of nowhere he began to beat box, finishing his set with a little spiritual hip-hop, topping off one of the better solo performances I’ve witnessed to date.
But it was only the appetizer. Nahko took the stage next with Thomas and the rest of Medicine for the People joining him after one solo track.
Remember how I said Thomas set the bar awfully high? Well this set took that bar, raised it a few thousand feet and then pole vaulted over it like an Olympic gold medalist. Every song topped the one before it. You could feel the love in the crowd. There was no shoving, no arguing, no hate: only love – and lots of it. Well, and singing. The crowd wasn’t just there, they were involved, and they were a large part of the show. The connection between Nahko and the crowd was similar to that of friends that have known each other forever. Nahko fed off the crowd’s great energy, evident by the Hitmonlee like jump kicks throughout the set.
Nahko’s voice is unique, a cross between a whiny auto-tuned T-Pain (without the autotune) and Matthew Miller (Matisyahu) - leaning heavily to the latter. It reminded me of someone crying out for help, yet offering advice to those in need of help at the same time. It’s a direct correlation to Nahko’s lyrics, which offer a strong message to those struggling with life’s biggest questions.
Highlighted by “Aloha Ke Akua,” “So Thankful” and “Warrior People,” Nahko and Medicine for the People played a significant portion of their project. Dark As Night. Oh how’d I forget “Black as Night?” My personal favorite is a crowd-pleaser and didn’t disappoint. The crowd, making it seem like the entire Bluebird crowd was one person, sang part of the song, “I believe in good things coming” in perfect harmony.
They also played several tracks off their latest project On The Verge. "Mr. Washington" takes the top honors here as one key lyric really hit me hard, "We believe in freedom for all, no matter what color you are, where you're from or who your forefathers were."
But the show wouldn’t have been complete without an encore, and in this case, Nahko performed a solo rendition of “Budding Trees,” a truly moving track to end a truly moving concert.