It’s a Family Affair (Concert Review: The Foreign Exchange @ The Paradiso)
Op vrijdag 7 januari werd de thuiskomst van Nederlands grootste soul export ingeluid met een optreden in de Paradiso te Amsterdam. Nicolay (oftwel Matthijs Rook) en Phonte Coleman, die tesamen het duo The Foreign Exchange vormen, traden op voor fans, familie en vrienden.
Het zou een gedenkwaardige avond worden met veel hoogtepunten. De opkomst was voor Paradiso maatstaven niet al te hoog, maar desondanks zat de sfeer er goed in. In sommige opzichten voegde de beperkte drukte zelfs een extra intimiteits-factor toe aan het hele optreden.
Tijdens de show bracht de acht man tellende band diverse nummers ten gehore afkomstig van zowel het debuut album (“Connected”) als de laatste twee werken (“Leave It All Behind” & “Authenticity”) van de heren Nicolay en Phonte Coleman.
Upon returning home from last night’s Foreign Exchange gig at the Paradiso (Amsterdam) I realized that what I had been witness to was not only a great performance, but also a family reunion of sorts. Mom and Dad Nicolay (as Phonte referred to them) were joined by friends and family to welcome home their multi-talented son Matthijs Rook (a.k.a. Nicolay) and his band of highly gifted musicians and vocalists. Also contributing to the intimate nature of last night’s homecoming was the venue. Percentagewise I’d say the attendance was about 50%, which is a good thing as it gave the audience the room to freely move around and fully enjoy the performance. As opposed to the crowded and noisy sold-out concerts that are usually held there! All these circumstances gave the evening a warm and even emotional undertone that elevated the entire experience that much more. The Foreign Exchange show also happened to be my first concert in 2011, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better way to start the New Year.
As stated earlier the evening started out a bit rocky with a painfully bad performance by opening act La Melodia. The duo, consisting of female MC Melodee and producer INT, took to the stage with an extra DJ and two female back-up singers. Their goal being to get the party started and add a little hip hop flavor to the night’s proceedings. But unfortunately their attempt ended in utter failure. Upon writing this review I really tried to find something positive to say about their performance, but as you see even that turned out to be a ‘mission impossible’ on my part. The mediocrity (and I’m being generous here) of INT’s productions and Melodee’s lyrics were cringe-inducing, to be quite honest. It felt like watching one of those kiddie talent shows where the contenders get to perform their best imitations of things they’ve seen in MTV rap videos. For some reason the final pageant scene in “Little Miss Sunshine” kept playing in my head. Luckily the set didn’t take that long and with all the bar- and toilet visits time just seemed to be flying by.
Not long after the lights went low, the announcer took to the stage to welcome the eight-member band that would form The Foreign Exchange for the night. Prior to the show I had been speculating on which artists would be joining Phonte and Nicolay on the podium. On my shortlist were names like Darien Brockington and Yahzarah, but as it turns out fate had something else in store for us that night. Neither Darien nor Yahzarah made it to last night’s show, filling their places were soulful Detroit native AB and the sexy afro wearing Sy Smith. Last but not least we had Zo! completing the picture. Together they would bring to live the sonically rich productions of Holland’s biggest soul export, Nicolay. The band started off with that familiar FE theme sound that was featured on all three of the Foreign Exchange records. The build-up eventually gives way to the first song of the evening, “The Last Fall”. From there the band smoothly transitioned to the title track “Authenticity”, which had a very eighties Prince-like quality to it. The first three songs were performed back-to-back, with very little interaction between leadsinger Phonte and the crowd. But that all changed when we got to the “Connected” portion of the show. Once the beat to “Nic’s Groove” dropped hands went up in the air and didn’t come down till the end of the song. Like many FE fans I too miss the days of “Connected”. Don’t get me wrong, I also love their more recent work. But for me “Connected” had something special, something that made it unique during that period of time. The inclusion of songs such as “Raw Life” and “Come around” in last night’s performance conjured up many fond memories, and catapulted those 15 minutes of the show to the biggest highlight of the evening.
In between songs Phonte interacted with the crowd as only he can. His funnyman routine had the audience in stitches a few times. But the standout moment came when Phonte decided to treat his listeners to a sermon of sorts. The focus of this little piece of improvisational comedy was an anecdote about a certain T-Mobile telephone bill he had recently received in the mail. He broke down for us the need for motherfuckers to stay paid. (“We are not a NOT-FOR-PROFIT organization”). After this little intermission things got back on track with two beautiful songs off the “Leave It All Behind” LP. First up was the easygoing and upbeat “Take off the Blues”, followed by the grammy nominated song “Daykeeper”. Both songs showcase the group’s immense growth over the years. The band also does a tremendous job of bringing these songs to live. Not everything went as smoothly though. For a brief few moments during last night’s show the volume of Phonte’s mic was out of whack, and his performance threatened to get lost in the barrage of guitar and drum sounds. Luckily he recovered quite nicely through the help of his two backing vocalists. Sy Smith deserves a special mention as her sultry voice and sexy appearance had at least half the room hanging on her every word.
The final act saw the band returning to their most recent work “Authenticity”. The lead single “Maybe She’ll Dream Of Me” managed to get the crowd shaking and dancing again after the somewhat mellow nature of the previous songs. It would have been the perfect song to close the show with, but unfortunately the group decided to prolong the performance with an encore (consisting of two extra songs, “Laughing at your Plans” & “I Wanna Know”). When I say unfortunately I do so not because of the fact that the band went on a bit longer, but more for the fact that they did so with two relatively slow songs. My philosophy is to always go out with a bang. The Foreign Exchange however did not share that same train of thought, and as a result the night ended with a fizzle. But even the muffled conclusion didn’t take away from the intimately that was shared that night. Fans, friends and family all came together in celebration of one of their own.
Tekst: Abdel Chaouch Foto's: Vera van Impelen
Tags: Paradiso, The Foreign Exchange, Amsterdam Concert, Mathijs Rook, Soul, Nicolay, Vera van Impelen, Abdel Chaouch