Part of the beauty of live performance is that the experience is truly one of a kind. Rhiannon Giddens‘ homecoming concert at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro will never be repeated in exactly the same way, though would that it could. It’s a perfect example of how being fully in the present is precious.

Giddens and her band blazed through a spicy mélange of old favorites and songs from her new album, You’re the One. The songs ranged from reels, to pop, to Brazilian Forró, to dramatic folk, to comic, and everything in between.

After an opening set by Adia Victoria, a folk-blues singer from Spartanburg, SC, Giddens and band swung into “Koromanti/Following the North Star,” a Congolese-tinged reel that set the mood for all that was to follow. I confess that I am not musically educated enough to parse the intricacies of Giddens’ work, but the cultural blends that she creates and inspires are completely magical.

She followed with a couple of fraught love songs, then an exquisitely uncomplicated one written for her second child some years ago. The music and her voice are as fiery and incendiary as a revolution, and as warm and mellow as hearth and home.

“The Love We Almost Had” from her second solo album, Freedom Highway, has a sassy beat, and Giddens served up some choice scat singing. “Wrong Kind of Right” switched the mood to a more soulful style, and “You’re the One,” the title song from the album of the same name, completed the love song group with a song of pure love.

Giddens’ voice can seemingly do anything, gliding from rich depths to crystalline heights with the ease of mercury. On “You Don’t Know How Sweet It Is,” a song inspired by hours of listening to Dolly Parton records, Giddens even gets the little country vocal catches, almost a yodel, short of a hiccup – delightful and amazing.

Giddens introduced her musical and life partner Francesco Turrisi on “Briggs’ Forró” from their duet album, There Is No Other. On it, she plays banjo and scat-sings, and he plays the accordion; drummer Attis Clopton also contributed polyrhthmic percussion to the piece.

Forró is a type of music and dance from the northeastern part of Brazil, and Turrisi joked that Brazil is one of the few places in the world where people actually love the accordion. The multi-talented musician also plays percussion and keyboards. In this concert, he did stellar work on what appeared to be a Hammond B3 organ.

Turrisi’s keyboarding gave wonderful weight to several songs, including “Louisiana Man,” another rollicking mad-love song from You’re the One. “You burned my bed, lit up my sky, Louisiana Man,” it goes.

Giddens switched moods again on “Come Love Come,” a powerful song about enslaved people emancipating themselves and fleeing behind Union lines, where, instead of being treated as free people, they were treated like contraband. “Come Love” is from her album Freedom Highway. It is a soaring and soulful appeal full of longing and some despair.

Activism plays a big role in Giddens’ life and work, from her prodigious excavation and elevation of Black music in Appalachian traditions to her participation in the Innocence Project, which, according to its website “works to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone.”

An article that Giddens’ read about a wrongfully incarcerated man who was held in solitary confinement for nearly two years and committed suicide after he was finally released inspired “Another Wasted Life.” Giddens was joined on the song by bones-playing rapper Justin “Demeanor” Harrington. Fragments of the song are haunting: “Another day, another youth” and chanting of “Say their names, Say their names” referring to so many people of color who have been wrongfully incarcerated or killed by the so-called justice system.

An instrumental “Niwel Goes to Town” from They’re Calling Me Home featured Giddens on claw-hammer banjo and the very wonderful Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu, who also created some compelling vocal moments during the concert.

Dirk Powell, the group’s exceptional keyboardist-guitarist-fiddler-vocalist, got some time in the spotlight on a piece that is listed as just “Dirk Funny Song” on the playlist. It was, indeed, very funny, a lonesome love song that includes the line “sitting here thinking about not thinking about you.” It also contains some great romantic psychobabble about moving on and being in the present, when in reality your heart has been shredded. It provided a moment of comic relief.

“We Can Fly” returned to the Freedom Highway album, and Giddens returned to her deep roots, love for her ancestors, and gratitude for their struggle. “We could fly, we could fly. We could slip the bonds of Earth and fly so high,” goes the song about enslaved people longing to be free, getting comfort from the memory of their mythical ancestors who had the power to fly away from bondage.

Through the entire concert, the group was supported and spurred on by bassist Jason Sypher, who I remember well from Giddens’ and Turrisi’s College of Charleston Cistern concert at Spoleto in 2022.

Giddens started wrapping up the show with an old-time music set that included “God Gave Noah the Rainbow Sign” sung by Powell. It includes the prophetic line “no more water, the fire next time” and has been recorded by countless artists, from Ralph Stanley to the Jubalaires.

That got us on our feet, and we would not let her go. For her encore, a set of Sister Rosetta songs, Gidden brought Demeanor back to the stage, and called up her sister Lalenja Harrington and another frequent musical partner Laurelyn Dossett.

They segued seamlessly from “Lonesome Road” to “Up Above My Head,” and, yes indeed, we heard music everywhere. It made me believe “there’s a heaven somewhere.” And if there is any justice, this band and its magnetic leader will one day be playing beside the angels.

One of Giddens’ other projects is a group called Our Native Daughters, and we in the Triad are dang lucky to be able to claim Giddens as one of ours. Early in the concert, she said that she loves mixes. She loves her heritage of racial mixture, and she loves mixing musical styles. On Sept. 28, we were the recipients of some of that lovely mixing, and we will never forget it.