To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Kaitlin Frick shares her perspective on Tunde Adebimpe’s A Warm Weather Ghost.Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
In this weekend’s premiere of A Warm Weather Ghost, Tunde Adebimpe shed light on mortality, grief, and afterlife on the McGuire Theater’s stage. In a stylistically-ranging, 50-minute-long set of music paired with a cinematic series of his own animations, Adebimpe and his ensemble offered a stirring portrayal of the cosmic journey a human takes as they pass from their earthly life into a place of light beyond themselves.
Adebimpe, who provided his signature exuberant lead vocals, was supported by backup singers Morgan Sorne and Mia Doi Todd, whose falsettos, whistles, and harmonies soared throughout. Expectedly, he was more restrained performing this new work than he tends to be with his rock band, although by the third performance on Saturday evening, he appeared relaxed and expressive, gesturing with his hands as he does with TV On The Radio. Adebimpe and his ensemble, a septet of versatile, multi-disciplinary artists, who, clad in black and seated onstage in near darkness, almost resembled a pit orchestra, supported the project’s cinematic component, which was projected on screen above the stage.
When the film opened to the sounds of traffic, and a young 20-something in a Hendrix t-shirt stepped off a Los Angeles curb, we understood their fate even before the bus suddenly appeared. And with a clamor of metal and a snarling saxophone and trumpet, the Warm Weather Ghost journey began, launching the darkest, most mysterious song of the night, while kaleidoscopic patterns of chaos spun through the cosmos: Systems of families/ systems of galaxies/ we are a change in the weather/ time against time, forever.
The second song was an immediate standout, sounding familiar and comforting in its gentle reassurances: And the air is sweet and even/ And there’s nowhere left to be/ And there’s nothing to believe in/ All are free. As the marimba-like synth arpeggios ascended and descended like bubbling water, a gesturally-drawn woman danced serenely across the screen in a celebration of new-found freedom.
Entering with a rollicking, static-laced synth, the next song was the most jubilantly electric of the evening, moving the journey exultantly forward, past embodiment and towards liberation. Adebimpe’s vocals soared triumphantly, as the visuals became more colorful and abstract: I know that I must go/ Drop my body and these worries on the spot. An enthusiastic burst of applause from the audience transitioned the band into the fourth number: a slow, steamy, tropical paradise dotted with silhouettes of palm trees and seductive minor seconds sung by vocalist Mia Doi Todd (the only song on which she soloed).
The late-set standout was the eighth number: its warm, ascending vocal harmonies combined with a jig-like saxophone and trumpet melody to make this accelerating song among the most heavy hitting of the evening. Todd’s vocals were exquisite, bending upwards as they might in a Tropicália melody, while the animations at this point were dominated by dogs racing by, carefree in their green, red, and yellow outlines.
The apex of the show arrived with the band’s penultimate song. With an accelerating, expanding drum beat, the band delivered its wall of sound and all the visuals that came before to a place beyond —a pulsating, technicolor static, breathing in its celebration of energy and freedom: I know the end is not the end. I’m out.
And with that, the band launched into an unexpectedly wry epilogue, an ode to death, matched on screen by projections of skulls, marigolds, and mandalas. The lights on stage came up slightly as “Money” Mark picked up an acoustic guitar, illuminating what felt almost like a campfire sing-along meant for Underworld communing: O Death O Death O Death/ Extraordinary Death / Comes rushing through your Space/ Once More with Feeling.
A Warm Weather Ghost was a cathartic opportunity for Adebimpe to process several personal losses he’d recently experienced. Moreover, it was a courageous exploration of the deepest anxieties we share about death: from the moment it occurs, to what happens to our bodies, convictions, relationships, memories, and the love we embody. Adebimpe’s A Warm Weather Ghost fostered an aesthetically stunning space for audiences to understand their own experiences of loss, inspiring intensely personal and unique interpretations, and promising only change, transformation, and a whole lot of beauty along the way.
A co-presentation of Liquid Music, Walker Art Center, and The Current, Tunde Adebimpe’s A Warm Weather Ghost was performed Thursday–Saturday, May 18-20 at the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. While no immediate plans to tour the project have been announced, Adebimpe plans to release recordings of the project alongside a book featuring artwork from the film some time later this year.