by Steven Pisano
You know it's summer when the BRIC Celebrate Festival season starts in Prospect Park (even if Mother Nature won't officially chime in for a couple of more weeks). On Tuesday, thousands of people lined up along Prospect Park West and then thronged the Bandshell area to listen to Common open up this year's long list of great concerts, one of the finest line-ups ever.
While there were not many overt references to the current political administration in Washington, Common's reputation is based on singing socially conscious songs, so the topics of race, personal freedom, social inequality, police violence, and similar concerns were thick in the air.
But there was no moralizing or preaching. Common does not communicate from a pulpit or from an altar on high. He spreads his beliefs by walking amongst people's everyday lives, so most of all, he spent the evening telling the audience the story of his life through his songs, from the days he longed to sink baskets like Chicago superstar Michael Jordan, up through the current day, as a father himself.
Common is usually classified as a rapper, and yes, he can reel off some flashy freestyle raps, but he also sings straight R&B, and he tells spoken word stories that always carry a meaning, so rap is just part of his overall arsenal of singing talents.
The big crowd, richly mixed by race, age, and gender received the singer warmly, responding with a roar when he spoke of spending time with his friend on Flatbush Avenue, staking his claim as a Brooklynite despite his Chicago roots.
The BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival continues on throughout the summer with a wide variety of musical offerings. There is no better place to be on a warm summer night whether you are there to picnic, or to dance, or to listen with friends to rock, country, folk, or jazz. It's absolutely free (except for the benefit concerts), but of course to support this kind of musical oasis in the heart of Brooklyn, you should give $5 - or whatever you can - at the gate.
More photos can be found here.