Nahko And Medicine For The People at LA’s Fonda Theater

The Take Your Power Back Tour, featuring Nahko And Medicine For The People, came to The Fonda Theater in Los Angeles for two nights. It was one of the last stops on the tour and Ayla Nereo came along as the opener for the last few shows.

Ayla started the night off with a dark theater bathed in blue light. Her pure empowering vocals pierced the cold, royal blue spotlights and warmed up the crowd’s energy. Even though her stage setup is simplistic, her music is not — different than most because she doesn’t use a traditional band. She has a drummer and uses a series of layered vocal and melodic loops to tell her stories. Her music walks through a myriad of experiences: from hope to healing, building on each layer until the subtle power of each song comes through. For most of her songs, she gives a little intro while she sets up the loops. Once the song starts, her loyal and passionate fans can be heard subtly singing each verse while she prances around the stage. For new fans, it’s an introspective look at hope and healing through her voice and vision. 

Nahko’s sets are always filled with high energy, but none of us knew how special this night was going to be.

After her 45-minute set finished, the theater dropped the curtains. Yes, they still use huge ceiling level curtains. (A throwback to The Fonda’s days as one of the premiere theaters in Los Angels back in the late 1920s.) The crowd doesn’t move much, waiting patiently for Nahko And MFTP. Nahko’s sets are always filled with high energy, but none of us knew how special this night was going to be. I heard from one of the crew to be ready for a “special set” — something totally different than the standard Take Your Power Back set. Now my own excitement and curiosity peaked.

Nahko was ready after about 30 minutes. The curtain raised (I love the look of a curtain raising and the band being there ready onstage). It was pitch dark onstage, with nothing but a few spotlights on. Tim Snider, the violinist, laid down a stunning opening solo. Nahko walked onstage and the crowd erupted into cheers as he dived right into “Nyepi”. It didn’t take long for the entire crowd to immerse entirely into the music, singing, dancing and cheering like it was their first time seeing a show.

While Nahko dove into funk with bass lines from Pato, solos rang out from Ribner on the French horn and Snider on the violin, adding elements of jazz or bluegrass to every song. Nahko played a few of the favorites, “Wash it Away” and “Warrior People”, but not long after the incredible opening that set the crowd on fire, Nahko showed why the night was going to be so unique. He had some very special people join him onstage: namely Zelle Day, Ayla and an amazing producer, Jerry “JL” Lang II. Lang produced the song “Lifeguard” and came out to play piano with Nahko for this collaborative version of the song.

Ayla sang a duet with Nahko and he took a few more songs before Zella Day came out. He told a few stories about Day as an interlude to set up “Make A Change”, which came off the Hoka album in 2016. Even though they had been singing this song onstage as far back as 2014, not many in the crowd have seen them together. Certainly none of them were ready for the true power of these two vocalists together and neither was I.

It speaks volumes when addressing power, making a show half acoustic, while still being able to bring the house down.

Day and Nahko must have been ready for this night, because the two of them belted out a version of “Make A Change” that was probably the best it’s ever been done. And, this was pretty much how the night progressed. Nahko and the rest of the band drove the energy up with everything: from acoustic to funk and with solos from everyone in the band, only to be brought back down momentarily each time before he brought Day back out. They sang everything from duets to songs with just Day. Her searing, sultry voice bounced off those theater walls in perfect harmony with Nahko. And, just to make sure no one forgot how special this night was, after an unforgettable night (and several encores), Nahko brought her back onstage to sing a blazing downtempo duet of “Sweet Child Of Mine”, which left fans speechless.

Nahko And MFTP truly put out a special performance. It speaks volumes when addressing power, making a show half acoustic, while still being able to bring the house down. Talk about ‘Taking Your Power Back’? That is how you do it.

Photography by Sean Kelly

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