Live review: Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Visulite Theatre (10/10/2013)



Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds w/ Connor Kennedy
Visulite Theatre
Oct. 10, 2013


If someone gave me a head's up that a basically unknown 19-year-old was going to open up for Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds on his first-ever "real tour," I might have showed up to the Visulite Theatre a little later... and I would have missed one of the best young acts I've seen in a long time.

Sure, the phrase "wise beyond his years" is thrown around a bit too often, but in Connor Kennedy's case - in a musical sense - it's true. Looking like a young Jim James, Kennedy quickly won over a small crowd in the Elizabeth Avenue venue with a classic-rock sound reinforced with soulful singing and strong lyrical imagery. The Woodstock, N.Y., quartet carried the crowd with poetic word play and heartfelt jams that were more melodic than show-off stunts.

The job of an opening group is to warm up the crowd and Connor Kennedy put on a clinic. After each song - some from the band's debut six-song EP, Nothing Lasts: Nothing's Over, the applause got louder and the audience banter faded. You could hear old soul influences as easily as The Band, the Allman Brothers or My Morning Jacket. Connor Kennedy would let a song go on and jam for minutes, stretching out without losing touch - and it was not out of necessity, but clearly to serve the song's tone in a fitting manner and let the musicians live in the moment. Kennedy comfortably found the pocket each time and let his guitar notes roam within the music, eyes closed and fingers wandering around the fretboard.

As the last notes rang out, I almost expected people to shout for an encore, and I would have been content with the band's set alone, but the crowd was warmed up and primed for a solid performance from the night's headliner, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds.


The eight-piece funk and soul band hit the stage and people were immediately up front and dancing to the Brooklyn-based outfit's infectious grooves. Led by Arleigh Kincheloe, Sister Sparrow herself danced around the stage and was all smiles as she sang and swayed, constantly connecting with the crowd.

For more than an hour, the band rifled through its songs - from each of two LPs and its Oct. 1-released EP - getting feet moving every time. After each song, it looked like another couple fans would make their way to the front of the venue to dance or sing along.

Much like Kennedy before them, the band would jam and have fun while not getting too indulgent or overbearing, simply letting the songs roll on so people could continue moving and shaking.


Kennedy was invited back on stage for the band's final song, "Road Trip," as he and Dirty Birds guitarist Sasha Brown traded licks and riffs, leaving Arleigh Kincheloe full of smiles as she stood aside and watched it happen.

Kincheloe's vocals are strong without being dominating. You could say the same for the horn section, her harmonica-playing brother or any of the other band members churning out their funk-laced R&B. Another one of those Charlotte nights where you wish more people were in the building to witness it, but proud that you'll be able to look back and say, "I was there..."


Sister Sparrow Setlist
Millie Mae
The Long Way
Make it Rain
Don't Be Jealous
Prison Cells
Mama Knows
Fat Bottomed Girls (Queen cover)
Too Much

Road Trip