Last Thursday night was a night of icons; spiritual jazz and funk guru Lonnie Liston Smith played at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal with our own icon the Opera House as the backdrop.

With a career spanning more than five decades, Smith had never performed in Australia, making this Red Bull Music event a truly special one. He oozed the aura of man who has seen, done and heard it all, including playing with the likes of Miles Davis and Pharaoh Sanders.

Mike Who spun jazz and funk, warming up a cold but buzzing crowd waiting see a legend. Local band Foshe also took the stage, playing their unique take on jazz and all it’s variants with an infectious child-like excitement — their lead singer had a vocal range and stage presence that could stump a veteran musician. The crowd was captivated — that’s the magic of Red Bull Music events, plucking artists from local communities and putting them on stage to collaborate and share their passion with greats.

The last hour of the show was left for the man himself and his fantastic, rousing band. Smith worked the keys but unfortunately, presumably because of his age, the vocals were left to the band’s female vocalist — she had to compete with the boisterous band and unfavourable acoustics. Ultimately it was all there; the transcendent, timeless power that is Lonnie Liston Smith’s music, the man still taking people to cosmic places.

Smith took from a wide range of his catalogue,  leaving some of his dustier stuff alone, but as everyone in the crowd would of hoped for, he finished his set with ‘Expansions’, his most iconic track. The song’s message still rang true — as the generation gap between performer and audience were obliterated with a gorgeous musical-odyssey — music is our flying carpet to higher places.


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