Generous donors and enthusiastic fans enjoyed a night of bountiful music and goodwill at the 6th Annual “An Evening of Unexpected Delights” Fundraiser to decrease homelessness in Baltimore. The tone for the evening was set on the beautiful Lyric Opera House stage which was lit up with an outline of the Baltimore skyline and the logo of The Journey Home, the mayor of Baltimore’s plan to make homelessness rare and brief in Baltimore.
This year’s concert featured opening act Leslie Odom, Jr., fresh off his Tony Award-winning run as Aaron Burr in smash Broadway hit Hamilton followed by Grammy Award-winning hip-hop group, and house band for The Jimmy Fallon Show, The Roots.
Odom kicked off the festivities with a short set that featured the songs “Autumn Leaves” and “I Know That You Know” from his new, self-titled album as well as “The Room Where It Happened” and “Wait for It” from Hamilton. True to form, Leslie Odom, Jr. put on an elegant show with a five-piece band comprised of upright bass, piano, guitar, drums and congo. The group replicated the signature smooth jazz sounds of his album.
After a brief video introduction by NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt, The Roots took to the stage with a deluge of sound and energy. The group, which is famous for mixing up the size on shape of their ensemble, performed with virtuoso sampling artist Jeremy Ellis.
Front man Black Thought started the set by sending a shout out “to anyone who has ever fought against injustice.” The band then launched into an elongated jam-version of “Express Yourself” that morphed into a genre-defying, jazz influenced, “I Know You Got Soul” before sousaphone/tuba player Damon Bryson (Tuba Gooding, Jr.) took center stage for a tuba solo.
Bryson pranced across the stage effortlessly as he balanced his tuba, which brings a unique sound element to The Roots’ music, across his shoulder. At one point in the show, he dance-marched straight off the stage and into the aisle to the amusement of nearby audience members.
By the time the band launched into “Jungle Boogie,” midway through their set, the entire audience was on their feet. “Jungle Boogie” transitioned into a lengthy electronic sampling solo by Jeremy Ellis on an elaborate beat box set up. Ellis’ hands blurred from the speed with which he produced intricate beats and samples from Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”
Black Thought took to the mic again for a rendition of fan favorite “You Got Me” before guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas took the show out with an impressive guitar solo and back-up vocals on “The Seed (2.0).”
Founding band member Questlove, stayed behind his drum set, bringing energy to the scene in the instrumental tune “Apache” and remaining onstage after the 75-minute show to throw drum sticks to an eager audience.
The evening was a grand success by all measures and guests left knowing they had contributed to a great cause and had a lot of fun in the process.
Leslie Odom, Jr. and the Roots performed on Saturday, October 22, 2016, at the Lyric Opera House – 140 West Mount Royal Avenue, in Baltimore, MD – as part of the 6th Annual An Evening of Unexpected Delights Fundraiser to benefit The Journey Home, Baltimore City’s plan to decrease homelessness.