“An iconic American band,” KUTX’s Matt Reilly said as he introduced War, who walked on the World Cafe Live stage to cap off another exhilarating night of NON-COMM. Truer words have never been spoken, as War is celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band, with lead singer and founding member Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan cracking jokes at his own expense as he turns 75 in November. Despite his self proclaimed “bad ear” and a few gray mustache hairs, fans would never know the group’s age by the sound of the music. In fact, War’s 45-minute set was an emotional rollercoaster ranging from goofy skits, saddening cries, funky jams, and psychedelic soundscapes that rivaled some of the group’s grandest performances.
Lonnie walked on stage distraught, reluctant to reduce the band to 45 minutes worth of hits instead of a 3-hour-long universal expedition. He snickered, joking at the thought, and the entire seven-piece ensemble began clapping their hands with the audience following close behind. They opened with “Me And My Baby Brother,” jamming along to the jaunty rhythm before melting right into “Slippin’ Into Darkness” and “The Cisco Kid” which, fun fact, was #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 fifty years ago this week.
The backing band, while largely made up of supporting musicians in lieu of the group’s original lineup, played together flawlessly as if they had been playing side by side since War’s founding in 1969. Key changes, tempo adjustments, drum fills, bass solos, and most complex of all: following Lonnie’s off-the-cuff playing style; every note was executed and stylized like a well oiled machine. However, none of this would be possible without the star of the show: Lonnie Jordan. He is a performer like no other, setting a golden example of what a creative frontman can mean to a band. His ability to engage the crowd, making them laugh and get involved during songs, is unmatched. The unprompted storytelling on “Spill The Wine” was unbelievable in its fluidity and elegance, and his expressive movements perfectly followed the song like an on the fly interpretive dance routine.
Rounding out the set, War gifted fans with three of their biggest hits. An emotionally-charged “The World is a Ghetto” had the crowd glued to the stage and intently grasping onto every lyric. This was quickly contrasted by their performance of the upbeat “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” Fans sang along and danced to the beloved chorus, some pulling out their flashlights to wave back and forth in nostalgic glee. No War concert could be complete, however, without “Low Rider.” As percussionist Marcos J. Reyes came to the front of the stage and took up the mighty cowbell, the crowd began to cheer in anticipation. The iconic harmonica line filled the room, and the crowd went wild, shouting the lyrics and humming the melody while the band merrily played on. After an interminable applause, Lonnie gave one final peace sign, and NON-COMM night two was over. For fans still itching for more War, their new album Remixes releases next Friday.