Leilani Wolfgramm >> Last Thursday, Leilani Wolgramm and Alborosie brought some toasty island vibes to the habitually foggy summer contradiction that is San Francisco. For this writer it was a tale of two shows that added up to a fantastic night of music at Mezzanine, the tenderloin’s hidden gem.
For those not familiar with the SF landscape, the tenderloin is the part of the city where we hide the vagrants, crackheads, homeless and their respective used needles and colorful personalities amongst some of the biggest tech companies in the world, but that’s a tangent for a different write-up, so on to the music!
For those of you who have seen her live, or perhaps read my write-up from Cali Roots you know what a special treat this was for me. This was a different performance than the one I stumbled into in Monterey over Memorial Day. The lightness and sunshine of an outdoor reggae festival traded for a intimate and powerful set deep into the night.
[related: Cali Roots 2015]
If you haven’t seen Leilani, and I don’t mean live, I mean at all, Google her. I’ll wait… See wasn’t that worth it? Stone cold fox. Her undeniable sexiness is just a small part of the package though. The lady knows how to make an entrance. Dressed in all black she took the stage alongside a violin solo reminiscent of when Metallica played with the SF Orchestra, and she had the crowd hooked from the first chords. Playing mostly songs from her most recent album, Rebel, I was entranced start to finish. The nonchalant strength and power her stage presence has is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and something I was really able to appreciate in the smaller venue.
The other most noticeable aspect of her performance was her range. Though rooted in island vibes and reggae undertones, this girl could undoubtedly sing the hell out of everything from opera to a cereal commercial and people would eat it up. No more evident than when she mixed in an on point and commanding rendition of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Landslide’ into the middle of her original hit ‘Sunshine’. Other highlights included yet to be released tracks ‘Sinner’ and ‘Adrian’. ‘Sinner’ showed her edgy side and complimented her sharp vocals. ‘Adrian’ [like Yo Adrian!!! From Rocky] was a song about strong will power overcoming obstacles with a tint of girl power, that just reinforced the sexiness of this strong independent and talented woman who dominated the stage for a solid hour.
Although I came for Leilani [pun slightly intended], I am glad I stayed for Alborosie. Not taking the stage until close to midnight on a school night, and already being on the preverbal wrong side of the tracks, I had designs on catching a couple songs and executing my well known Irish goodbye. However, that was not in the cards for me this evening. As soon as Italian born Alborosie took the stage the entire vibe lightened with a new energy. I know what you’re thinking, Italian wtf? What a baldhead [Jamaican for not rasta and an outsider]. He moved to Jamaica in 2001 and paid his dues probably more than anyone will ever know, but trust me when I tell you the reggae sound from this man is undeniably the real deal no matter what color his skin. I tried to familiarize myself prior to the concert thanks to Spotify but like most good reggae that did him no justice. I have never seen someone with such a big smile and having such a good time on stage and it energized me and the crowd.
His traditional reggae sound was everything you expect from a reggae concert. Stories about Jamaica, struggles vs the man, and of course that good good sensimilla. That means weed, you baldheads! He played for well over an hour and could not stand still more than a second here and there, just an uncontainable ball of rasta energy. Personal favorites and recommendations for looking up are as follows; ‘Poser’, ‘Kingston Town’ and card-holding crowd favorite ‘Herbalist’. With an unorthodox style and background but with the musical chops to back it up, I’d compare him to the Cosmo Kramer of Reggae. Just so crazy and off the wall it works and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Be sure to check out both of these amazing performers music and make sure you don’t miss either next time they cruise through your town! Jah bless and give thanks and praise.