LifestyleThe Blackbyrds celebrate 50th anniversary with epic concert

The Blackbyrds celebrate 50th anniversary with epic concert

It was not a flashback; it was the real deal. On Jan. 20, The Blackbyrds were live in concert at the historic Howard Theatre in Northwest D.C., and performed their hits and some unrecorded songs, with an audience of more than 300 fans having a good time, grooving to the rhythm.

Drummer Keith Killgo (left)and bassist Joe Hall are the only original members of the Blackbyrds in the group’s current lineup. The group performed in their 50th-anniversary concert at the historic Howard Theatre in northwest D.C. on Jan. 20. (Brenda C. Siler/The Washington Informer)
With the group opening with one of their biggest hits, “Walking in Rhythm,” from beginning to end, The Blackbyrds had the intergenerational crowd on their feet.

Current members of The Blackbyrds include drummer Keith Killgo and bassist Joe Hall, the only two original members, as well as Roberto Villeda on keyboards, Sean Anthony on percussion, Charles Wright on guitar, Marshall Keys on saxophone, Thad Wilson on trumpet, and lead vocalist/drummer Paul Spires. 

The band was exceptional. Every musician got a chance to shine. Nothing about the concert felt like 50 years had passed. Every song felt current and full of energy. The spirited crowd enthusiastically gave The Blackbyrds a lot of love and appreciation.

The Blackbyrds Come Home

All the songs were there, including “Happy Music,” “Dreaming of You,” “Falling Like Dominoes” and “Mysterious Vibes,” which was included on the soundtrack of the Netflix film “They Cloned Tyrone.”

“People came into the Howard Theatre and this felt like a family reunion. This is an important milestone,” said Spires, who was a student of Killgo at Anacostia High School in Southeast D.C.

The irony of the concert at the Howard Theatre was that this was the first time The Blackbyrds had performed at the venue. Not affiliated with Howard University, the theater has been one of the most famous performance stages for Black talent since 1910.

The Blackbyrds were formed at Howard University by Donald Byrd, a jazz trumpeter/ flugelhornist, bandleader, jazz educator, and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. When Byrd organized and produced the six-member group, he was head of the university’s Black Music Department. The sound created by Byrd and The Blackbyrds was a coming together of jazz, R&B, funk and pop.

“Byrd remembered when jazz hit the big time, everybody was dancing,” said bassist Hall about what Byrd wanted to create with The Blackbyrds. “He wanted to bring the feet back.”

The Legacy Continues

Before the show began, Donald Byrd III, founder of the Donald Byrd Cultural Foundation in Bayonne, New Jersey, told the audience about his father. He talked about the significance of The Blackbyrds to his father’s legacy.

“It shows me the love people have for the music,” said Byrd, III, about the audience. “I’m ecstatic about The Blackbyrds continuing to keep the legacy going. You see, Keith Killgo is also working in music education.”

The Blackbyrds stay on the road on a global touring schedule. The 50th-anniversary tour began last year, but Killgo admits, it is always good to come home. Of course, it would not be a Blackbyrds concert if we did not hear “Rock Creek Park,” so we got an extended version.

“We have some things coming up this year, some festivals and some new recordings,” Killgo said. “We are so proud of what we’ve done over the years.”

Keep up with The Blackbyrds through their website at

Source: Washington Informer

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