When I saw Wyclef Jean’s name come up on Jukely, the concert subscription service that I swear I will write a blog post about one day, I had to pick up a ticket immediately. While I’m hardly a massive Wyclef fan, his song, “We Tryin to Stay Alive” is an 11 on my nostalgia scale. I was part of a dance group called TDC (Tufts Dance Collective) in college and my friend and I choreographed a fun, disco-y dance to this song that tried to pay proper homage to the Bee Gees’ “Stayin Alive,” the song Wyclef draws from. I will always look back on TDC rehearsals and shows as some of my favorite college memories, and so I was crossing my fingers that I’d get to hear “We Tryin to Stay Alive,” well, live.
Usually when I walk into a show there’s a little bit of an adjustment period. Figure out what to do with my coat. Maybe get a beer. Find a spot in the crowd. Slowly but surely get into the groove of the evening. Maybe it’s because I arrived after Wyclef had already taken the stage, but the impact on me was immediate. A minute after I stepped into Brooklyn Bowl I was already thinking, “This show is way more fun than I thought it would be.”
Wyclef’s energy was absolutely incredible, and he brought the audience right along with him. When he spotted a pocket of people in the front not dancing hard enough, he had no problem telling them to, “Go to the fucking back.”
He sang, he danced, he rapped, he played multiple instruments. He climbed on stuff, he stagedived (stagedove?). He graced us with an incredibly moving 15 minute a cappella freestyle about his childhood, his career, and the myriad of social injustices facing our world today.
The set list wove in and out of his own songs, featuring tracks from his award-winning album, “The Carnival,” as well as some Fugees hits (“Killing Me Softly,” obviously). Wyclef looped in other artists’ works that I didn’t even know I wanted to hear at that moment – House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” are a few that come to mind. As a Haiti native, he managed to weave it all together with reggae beats and made it a consistent upbeat dance party.
Most importantly, perhaps, Wyclef played the song I wanted him to play!
And even though he didn’t play the whole song, he did segue halfway through into a great version of “Guantanamera,” so I’m okay with it.
Wyclef is hitting Brooklyn Bowl again next Tuesday night and I am seriously debating trying to go again. Even though it’s only March, I can already tell this will be on my top 10 list for best shows of 2016.