Yes, I was privileged enough to be on the media team that was backstage during Foreign Exchange’s performance at the Double Door in Chicago on Friday night. It was amazing, people. And, it was an honor. There were so many more FE followers than I expected when I first arrived just a bit after 9pm. I know they are an amazing ensemble all together (YahZarah, Zo!, ELS, Darien Brockington were featured, Nicolay and Phonte as Foreign Exchange proper), but I think I just expected a more concentrated group of fans. I greatly underestimated the Chicago fanbase… and it felt SO refreshing to have done so. I love when a group as musically inclined as this gets the credit and support that they deserve.
I also learned that it really is about who you know. I originally just wanted to attend the concert as a spectator but after speaking with my good friend Raphael Nash, President of Endangered Peace, somehow he cooked up a situation that allowed me free entry into the concert, a VIP pass backstage, and a chance to meet with all of the artists. It was awesome in the literal sense of the word, not in that Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey kind of way.
The performance was mesmerizing. I watched from just offstage while they did their thing, moving the crowd and even inspiring one young lady to hop onstage from the audience and dance with them for a minute or two (with no security interference, strangely enough). Now, I personally enjoyed Connected more than Leave It All Behind , album-wise, but after the performance last night, I’ll have to put them both in heavy rotation and observe them as a continual, evolving entity dismissing my previous bias because of the difference in style. Live performance can make you revisit an album and see it in a whole new way. I don’t get to too many concerts nowadays, so this was the first time in a long time that I had this realization.
The group maintained an astonishing level of energy despite their long day and time-zone change, perhaps none so much as Darien Brockington (you can call him D-Brock) who crooned in a yelling, high-octave, Prince-like manner for the song where he is the featured singer, “Come Closer”. They performed songs from both albums, including but not limited to “Raw Life”, “Nic’s Groove”, “Daykeeper” and “I Wanna Know” with equal response from the crowd who lapped up the tunes eagerly—and with good reason. The talent of the classically trained Nicolay is both soothing and inspirational (a beloved fan even expressed this to him as he exited the stage).
After the show, during their cool down, I had a chance to chat with most of the members (Yahzarah and Nicolay headed back upstairs to meet and greet fans and do autograph signings). And Phonte is extremely down to earth. With his growing success with FE and his critical success with Little Brother (There’s little to criticize in my opinion. I’m a die-hard fan, in case you hadn’t noticed.), he is quite the grounded individual (and funny as hell, in case you were wondering). I was surprised that I wasn’t starstruck and was able to laugh and make jokes for a few minutes with artists I truly admire. It was an outstanding concert and an unforgettable experience. I’m grateful to the folks that made it happen and thankful for the artists that created some wonderful music. You can check their site to see if you can get a ticket to an unbelievable show.
Be good (in case you were thinking otherwise).