Last night I had the chance to witness an extraordinary performer share his gifts in such a way that one almost felt a religiosity to the entire experience. Bobby McFerrin sat alone on stage, bathed in a single spotlight, and held the full house captive for almost two hours. McFerrin’s vocal virtuosity was never in doubt, but last night he exploited his four-octave range to such a degree that one audience member said in awe: “That’s just not right.”
And indeed, something seems “not right” about this man. One wonders if he is an angel perhaps, for to have so much talent wrapped up in one human being seems almost impossible. McFerrin invited audience participation during many of his numbers and this included everything from having three volunteers do dance improvisations to inviting the audience to sing Gounod’s Ave Maria over McFerrin’s Bach’s C Major Prelude. It was indeed participatio actuosa in every respect. Not only was McFerrin more than willing to share the spotlight with the audience as a whole, he rendered a spiritual whilst his mother and sister sang along from the middle of the audience.
McFerrin ended the evening’s performance with his classic one-man version of The Wizard of Oz. He began with a very special textless “Over the Rainbow,” conveying every last sentiment of the text without ever singing a word of it. To watch McFerrin was to witness something both spectacular and humble at the same time. All of McFerrin’s numbers were stunning from start to finish.
Someone once asked, “If God played an instrument, what would it be?” Last night, folks in Santa Barbara got their answer.