“What if I told you it’s going to be alright,” asks Jones as she approaches the stage platform. “What if I told you not yet? What if I told you there are trials ahead beyond your deepest fears?”
Thus begins the unique show, Black Light, which is a concert cum confessional. In her sequenced gowns–and there are five costume changes during the 90-minute performance–and with her red lipstick and frizzy, frazzled, dark hair, Jones sometimes provides a strong, alto voice for her intermittent songs, ranging from ballads (“Crossroads”) to hard rock (“Life is motion”).
She has a much lower (i.e., masculine) speaking voice, which she uses to relate various, interwoven stories: about her youthful idolizing of Prince, her “brilliant” 11th grade “science” teacher, and her Aunt Cleotha, with whom she took “an instantaneous dislike,” given her “taciturn” quality–not to mention the shotgun that was always “next to her” on the back porch of Cleotha’s southern home.
As Jones roams from table to table, she invites an audience-member to rub her, ad libbing, “One must learn to rub the right way.” Though there are any number of ad libs throughout the evening, as is the nature of such a cabaret act, for the most part, Black Light consists of well-scripted tales taken from Jones’ life.
In one song, she repeatedly asks, “Can I get a witness for the need in me,” which essentially defines the show as well as our being there, bearing witness to her need to be seen. She also, at one point, asks, “Am I a living witness, or have I become a passive observer?” and at another, “You see, I’ve left an impression, no?”
And then there’s Jones’s back-up performers (“I call them my Vibrations,” she says, when she introduces them): Tariq Al-Sabir (piano and vocals), Sean Dixon (drums), Trevor Bachman (vocals), Michelle Marie Osbourne (bass), Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes (keyboard and vocals), Josh Quat (guitar and vocals), and Vuyo Sotashe (vocals). The striking costumes have been designed by Oana Botez, and Ania Parks’ lighting effects often put the performers’ faces in colorful profile. And if the show has been created by Daniel Alexander Jones, the songs were written by Jomama Jones–along with Laura Jean Anderson, Bobby Halvorson, Dylan Meek, and Josh Quat.
Black Light (through March 25, 2018)
Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-967-7555 or visit http://www.joespub.com
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission