Dwayne Wiggins Listening Party Becomes Jam Session

The ex–Tony Toni Toné guitarist's performance previews new album, Eyes Never Lie.

SAN FRANCISCO — It was labeled a listening party for Dwayne Wiggins' upcoming solo debut, Eyes Never Lie (May 2) — but the ex-Tony Toni Toné guitarist's 90-minute performance Wednesday at the Fillmore turned into an extended jam session.

As Wiggins and a backup singer, two guitar players, a keyboard player, a drummer and a saxophonist took the stage, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech boomed from the speakers.

Wiggins, who wore a white beanie over his dreadlocks, at times slipped his guitar under his gray trench coat after launching into "R&B Singer," from the new album. The crowd quickly got into the song, chanting its "yeah, yeah, yeah" chorus back to Wiggins, who then segued into "Strange Fruit," the album's first single. The single, whose title is taken from a Billie Holiday song, was released last month.

The crowd seemed to know the words to the song, which deals with an incident of police brutality Wiggins says he experienced. As Wiggins yelled out, "There is blood on me, and blood on you," the crowd yelled back.

"It is really loud and soulful in here," said Adrian Jones, a.k.a. DJ Supreme, a San Francisco native and well-known local DJ. "I don't know about some of his new stuff, but his first single ... is hot."

Wiggins' band then went on a blues excursion that touched on country. As the lights dimmed, he began to play Tony Toni Toné's "(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow" (RealAudio excerpt), from the R&B/hip-hop band's third album, Sons of Soul (1993).

Then they played "Whatever You Want," from the 1990 Tony Toni Toné album, The Revival. The audience knew this one, and they sang along with Wiggins, who took the microphone off of its base and began to walk back and forth across the stage.

Wiggins' solo songs displayed more social consciousness than those of his former band; most evident in the show-closing, hip-hop version of "Strange Fruit."

"We do this every Saturday night at the Java House in Oakland," Wiggins said, referring to a coffeehouse he owns that's a hangout for local musicians.