Bear Witness

My riff on Jon Landau’s seminal 1974 concert review, Growing Young with Rock and Roll, in which the jaded music critic finds the fountain of youth in the sight and sound of Bruce Springsteen.

Last Friday night, at the Civic Theatre in New Orleans, I saw rock and roll future and it is female and her name is Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff. And on a night when I needed to feel something, I heard music that made me want to be something for the first time in a very long time.

Rock and roll past didn’t flash before my eyes. Rock and roll was reborn in the form of a boxcar jumping, guitar strumming, soul igniting spiritual adviser, a balladeer from the Bronx with New Orleans chops, a Puerto Rican truth teller paired with a punk rock heart of gold who gave her all to a crowd hungry for the return of their small town heroes.

A night beginning with Nina Simone’s, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, served up as a pre-show prelude to Hurray for the Riff Raff’s catalog of coming of age, rage, immigrant stories and love stories before culminating in a consciousness-raising, rock and roll rally of two covers: John Lennon’s Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple) and CCR’s Fortunate Son with an assist from Ron Gallo.

Ruminating on the powerful performance I had witnessed and the empowerment that continues to stay with me, I can testify that there is nothing more rock and roll at this moment in time than to be a woman, who now by definition is a pre-existing condition, and not back down but grab back, and not turn away but move forward, and motivate others from the stage to do the same in a single phrase turned refrain: Pa’lante.










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