After Liv Warfield’s performance at the Waterfront Blues Festival on July 3, she may deserve the moniker of hardest-working woman in show business.
Beyond her powerhouse performance and her impossibly fluid singing, she conjured up a massive mix of musical muses—guitarists, background vocalists, horns, keys, and rhythm section—to staggering effect. The passing of the pop giant Prince, who served as her professional mentor, is still fresh in many hearts. But Liv’s performance brought an air of explosive rebirth after death, complete with earth-shaking Prince-fluence from the master’s actual horn section and electric guitarist Donna Grantis.
The opening number, “The Unexpected,” brought down muscular riffs in Warfield’s trademark blend of rock and R&B. The song let the crowd know they were in for a show with massive sound that would overpower the prevalent styles of electric blues on display at the festival.
Indeed, throughout the sunset show, Warfield and her crew of heavy hitters delivered. From thrilling originals to enlightening forays into funk and soul classics, every moment represented strength in performance and sound. And the crowd felt it, as they rollicked to the big beats and cheered the deft vocal performances.
Up-and-coming vocal star Lilla attended the event after playing the festival the previous day. Of Warfield’s performance she said, “It was amazing. It was so moving, it was just beautiful. It was so soulful and so funky!”
There were soft moments too, including one of complete silence, followed by Warfield’s passionate intonation, “This one’s for you,” invoking her teacher as she pointed upward to the sky. That silence was as effective as any musical blast because of its rarity and its pained honesty. It brought us to a major theme in Warfield’s work and artistic identity—overcoming struggle.
Warfield’s powerful stage persona is infectious. Moving to her grooves, soaking in her lyrics, one feels stronger, more capable. Watching her persona shift from song-and-dance pop icon to improvisational chanteuse to punk rocker is downright liberating, and she carries the show unflinchingly in all these incarnations as any authentic star would.
What is so alluring and convincing about Warfield is that her struggle is brought forth transparently before us. The massive set of 18 players shows not only her taste for the grand, but a clear desire to deliver the gargantuan impact she was born to provide.
Just like Warfield, her backup singers and instrumentalists worked hard to bring the funk. Bringing unbridled sound through a maze of song and medley without a hitch, they bore out the struggle of greatness together, succeeding in a wave of spectacular music—and showing us how honestly they wanted it to be great for all of us.
What next for our heroine?
Warfield is an experimentalist at heart, and after this showing, it is clear that her creative storms are brewing. In Blues terminology, “A man-child is born,” means we should all take heed of this character. Watching Warfield rock the stage, it’s safe to say that, “A goddess-child is born,” and we should all keep watch of her earth-shattering force.