Seen live: Kwame Binea & the Shakedown at Apollo Music Cafe

“Are you ready?!” Kwame Binea howls into the microphone, keying in the audience for what’s about to come. This is the Apollo Music Cafe--a series specializing in the curation of diverse, independent artistry, hosted by the iconic Harlem-based theater--and tonight’s sold-out performance is coming from the spirited Kwame Binea Shakedown, a roots-rock band with a dash of funk, blues and good vibes. As the frontman of a band that bears his namesake, Binea is 6’5” of boundless charisma with a voice that threatens to bring the stage down. Backed by his full band, an arsenal of skilled musicians practiced in tight sets and big sounds, Binea effortlessly navigates through originals and covers all of which align with the band’s mantra. It’s a phrase that the singer will energetically repeat several times throughout the set: peace, love and positivity. Stand out moments of the night include an explosive cover of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good),” an homage to the live version recorded by the artist on the very same stage, and an electrifying performance of Hendrix’s “Fire,” that came after the audience demanded an encore.

Maybe the real magic of the Shakedown is magnified by they way they command a crowd. During their original “World on Fire,” Binea managed to get a filled-to-capacity room to echo the word “love” to him during the outro, and “Let Go,” one of the first singles released from the band, had the audience flocking to the dancefloor. With lyrics like “Early morning, up with the sunrise/ Man, what a blessing it is to see another day” it’s easy to see the appeal of the band’s positive message. Amidst the tumult of recent events, Kwame Binea Shakedown’s commitment to love and unity is a welcome ray of hope that is poised to melt even the steeliest of hearts. To follow more from the Apollo Music Cafe, check out their site here, and be sure to check out the band's original track, “Let Go," streaming below. - Olivia Sisinni