The songs of Arrested Development bring me back to my youth. Their debut album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of… with hits such as Tennessee and Mr. Wendal spoke to my teenage self in a powerful way. They radiated consciousness, positivity, and energy and weren’t afraid to address real life and real issues. They were on the forefront of the conscious Hip Hop movement and a major player in the development of my personal love of the genre. I never had the opportunity to witness them perform at that time, so when I saw they were coming to Cleveland this past Friday I jumped on the opportunity to bear witness to this timeless and powerful collective of artists.
Performing at the House of Blues Cleveland, Arrested Development delivered a high-powered production that infiltrated the audience with energy and positivity. They were preceded on stage by Jahi—a school executive, dedicated to supporting the youth in the Oakland area, as well as a powerful lyricist and artist. Jahi delivered as he promised, “30 minutes of conscious lyrics.” He woke the audience up and prepared them for an evening characterized by truth in experience and expression.
Arrested Development’s arrival on stage met with massive approval from the crowd as they dove right into two timeless hits with Mr. Wendal and Raining Revolution. Throughout their performance the energy was high, their enjoyment was evident, and their message was clear. They weren’t, and have never been, here just to perform and get a paycheck. They are artist and activists who use their platform to share a message while truly enjoying the expression of their craft.
Arrested Development took the crowd on a trip through the history of Hip Hop making call outs and offering tributes to Tribe Called Quest, among others that were trail blazers along side them through the years. Speech took the time to tell the story behind their hit Tennessee, sharing how he lost his favorite grandmother and then his brother, Terry, in the same week and was “feeling some type of way.” They dedicated their performance of Ease My Mind to Phife Dog. And throughout the night they would cycle back to Raining Revolution, ultimately settling into an a cappella moment involving the audience—as the unified voices raised up to fill the space I found myself with an awareness so clear I was covered with goosebumps. The lyrics of this song (and many of their others) from more than 25 years ago are just as pertinent and applicable today.
The power of their performance amazed me. The amount of the show dedicated to those old timeless hits combined with the artistry and clarity in their voices made me feel like this show could have occurred decades ago. The energy never waned and their enjoyment was infectious, leaving everyone in a space of positivity. All of the members regularly stepped to the front of the stage, out of the spotlights, where they could see and connect to their audience. And at the end of the night they took the time to shake their audiences hands, 1 Love and Fareedah even stayed to chat and take pictures with people before retreating back stage.
When you see a band perform whose peak of popularity was close to a quarter of a century ago, you never really know how it will go. In the case of Arrested Development, nothing was lost—perhaps, something was gained. And the only complaint I have is… I wanted more.