Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae

Caught them at the Tow­er The­atre Tues­day night. Cap­ti­vat­ing show. Janelle Mon­ae is an incen­di­ary per­former. I feel bad for any artist who has to fol­low her act. She’s James Brown rein­car­nate with a dash of Sun Ra’s out­er space imagery for good mea­sure. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any­one sing and dance so well in a live set­ting, much less the some­times hol­low Tow­er, which can be a tough room to warm up even for sea­soned per­form­ers.

Her ener­gy com­plete­ly over­shad­owed Bilal’s set, who coast­ed a bit on the strength of the home­town crowd. I must admit that his cov­er of Led Zep­pelin’s “Since I’ve Been Lov­ing” you was a bit inspired, although his band did­n’t real­ly have the chops to real­ly dri­ve it home. As Dan DeLu­ca observes, Bilal had what it takes to be a neo-soul star in the mak­ing back in 2001; now, some nine years removed, who does­n’t shud­der when they hear “neo-soul?”

Erykah Badu mes­mer­ized the audi­ence. Her mere pres­ence com­mand­ed the room’s atten­tion and she held it for two hours, pos­sess­ing them with a mix­ture of songcraft and guile. Badu is a for­tu­nate mem­ber of the neo-soul scene, expe­ri­enc­ing some­thing of a renais­sance since she began the New Amerykah series in 2008. She’s incor­po­rat­ed ele­ments that draw on Par­lia­ment and Funkadel­ic, updat­ing her once staid, Star­bucks soul sound. Even the stuff from her 1997 debut, Baduizm, did­n’t sound dat­ed thir­teen years on. She is a singer at the height of her pow­ers and if you miss her, you’re real­ly miss­ing some­thing spe­cial.


Erykah Badu — “Window Seat”

Helen and I are going to see Erykah Badu June 8th at the Tow­er The­ater. Janelle Mon­ae is open­ing. Am I excit­ed? Hell yeah! Just picked up Erykah’s lat­est LP at AKA Music. Love her music so much. She’s also one of my favorite enter­tain­ers these days. Does­n’t hurt that she’s play­ing fast and loose with the great sounds Par­lia­ment Funkadel­ic intro­duced either.