King Raam took the stage at the Black Cat Thursday night, and immediately recognized he had drawn a “home crowd.”
Raam addressed the audience directly in Farsi, and indeed the very crowded room presented him with a robust audience of DC Persian music enthusiasts who responded in kind.
I of course don’t speak Farsi, so my observations on Raam’s performance are limited mostly to his musical skill and capabilities. I will say however that Raam, visiting DC on a brief US tour from Tehran, was a magnetic presence to the audience, who swayed respectfully in place, hypnotized by his rhythms.
My favorite concert companion Yasmin was by my side, however, and she does speak Farsi. She told me the show’s attendees found a great deal of power in Raam’s melancholy evocations of love and folklore.
Early in the show, Raam performed “Salvador,” from a new forthcoming album, A Day & A Year. The song has a melody reminiscent of something that may have come from The Strokes, but the truly distinguishing hallmark of the song is Raam’s deep and powerful voice.
The audience danced and swayed in time to the song, and many closed their eyes to fully capture the sound as if it transported them elsewhere.
Watch the new video for “Salvador,” released quite recently on August 26, 2015, on YouTube:
Over a dozen songs, Raam covered a lot of ground in his time as a solo artist since the last album from his New York-based band Hypernova. He played “The Hunter” from his 2011 effort, Songs of the Wolves, as well as “The Last Waltz” and the title track from his 2013 album, The Vulture.
Raam closed his main set on “Last Train Out,” a song from his 2010 EP with Ali Eskandarian. It’s one of several songs where Raam sings in English rather than Farsi, and it evokes solitary and perhaps even regretful feelings found in some of Raam’s songs, particularly in its refrain, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” In so doing, the song depicts a reluctant departure from a situation that has not gone as planned.
Watch Raam perform “Last Train Out” with Ali from a 2010 performance on The Reel Scene:
After the main set, Raam returned for a single-song encore of “Red Light,” a popular selection from his 2011 debut album.
Once the show was over, Raam was generous with his time, meeting a throng of admirers in the Red Room of the Black Cat while posing for pictures and signing autographs.
Raam has one US date left before he heads off to Europe. He performs at The Middle East in Cambridge, Mass., on Tuesday, Sept. 1, as the last of only four US dates during this visit. I imagine he’ll prove very popular with the Persian population at Harvard and MIT, but I would suggest giving him a chance even if you don’t speak Farsi. You’re sure to find him a comforting presence for solitary souls.