This is so much more than a concert where Josette Bushell-Mingo plays Nina Simone. Sure, she sings with a powerful, emotional intensity that pulls you out of your seat. But this is also an exposing examination of Simone’s resistance, a cry in horror that nothing has really changed.
Bushell-Mingo starts with a rally – Harlem, 1969, "Revolution". But she can’t go on – the revolution hasn’t happened. We are still in a place where we must shout that "Black Lives Matter'" and Bushell-Mingo is angry.
Seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald is shot 16 times in 13.8 seconds by a white policeman in 2014. We are pinned to our seats, speechless, when a raging Bushell-Mingo conducts a harrowing thought experiment: what if she were to pull a gun out right then and shoot all the white people? It’s not revenge; it’s self-defence.
For the majority of the show, the music is a natural extension of the story. The band, led by pianist Shapor Bastansiar, start up a melody at every poignant moment, a natural, organic progression in Bushell-Mingo’s tale.
This story is uncomfortable, it’s tear-jerking and it’s painful. Bushell-Mingo lets loose both barrels and doesn’t give us the comfort of a fourth wall. If she asks a question, she wants an answer, regardless of how embarrassing or shameful it may be. She is fearless in going past the point of no return. And then eventually she regains her composure – it’s on with the show.