Tag Archive | erykah badu

The Legends of the Summer Edition

Legends of the Summer setThe first 10 days of August were a blur of non-stop activity, both at work and at home. The capper of the month was finally seeing the Legends of the Summer tour. I purchased these tickets back in March when the tax refund was rolling in and I was flush with money. Needless to say, almost six months later, I wondered with my inside voice often if I foolishly spent too much money for one event. It rained pretty much all day and the concert was outside, so I was not really feeling up to it. Thankfully, it only sprinkled during the concert. Score! I needed to take the day off because the concert was in Baltimore and I work in Northern Virginia. The last few times I tried to make it from Northern Virginia to Baltimore on weekdays have been disasters and I didn’t want to risk it. Our plan was to get there early, park far away and have dinner. Well, it took two hours to travel 30 miles in the rain, so that plan never came together. We were at the stadium by 7p—early–and I bore very easily.

I hoped against all hope that the show would start promptly at 8p mainly because I was bored. Sitting in wet folding chairs watching people walk around was no fun. Honestly, I knew better. Based on twitter reaction from previous shows, the concert started around 9 and ended at 11:30p. That is precisely what happened. On a school night! After listening to an hour of a DJ travel from the excellent: Ashford and Simpson to the terrible: whichever hip hop artist is currently on the radio. I was so ready for the show.

Can I say in completely certain terms that the show as awesome? I saw an old episode of No Reservations this week and Anthony joked that coming up with adjectives to describe delicious food becomes exhausting. Finding an adjective to describe an amazing concert is pretty much the same. First, the staging was gorgeous and I happened to match because I was wearing red. I read a Rolling Stone review that stated that Jay Z’s collaboration with Justin has elevated his stage presence. It’s true. I am not exactly sure why Justin went through this “I want to act and design jeans instead of sing” phase, but he needs to stop. He belongs on a stage and he seemed almost Zen singing, dancing, and playing multiple instruments. I know people feel the need to stretch themselves, but again stop. Since he has three relatively short albums (~10 songs a piece) knowing his catalogue is rather easy. I and the audience could happily sing along. Jay Z has a ridiculously long catalogue so knowing what songs he would do became an interesting guessing game. I really hoped for more American Gangster, but oh well.

They came out to that Magna Carta Holy Grail, which I don’t like but it looked fun. Justin and Jay Z took turns performing, sometimes mashing up their songs. Justin would sing hooks for Jay Z songs replacing the original artists. For others, we were forced to hear recorded versions of the hook singers (my least favorite part of the show). Honestly are we really missing anything by having the background singers take turns being Alicia Keys or Rihanna? I like my live shows with live music, but I digress. They also had singular sets where they would do a few of their songs on stage without each other. My favorite part, other than the gorgeous set, was the band. In all red, they would dance for Jay Z songs and riff for Justin’s. Seeing the band bop to N’s in Paris was adorable, no Kanye necessary. All in all it was worth every anguished penny.

Earlier that month, I saw the second season of Liner Notes. This event gets bigger every time and I am so thrilled for the artists. To think I found this event through a Goldstar deal and now it is becoming an appointment event. The artists were able to move to the larger theater of the Atlas, another cool thing.  I hope soon, they tour. Think of the amazing possibilities. They could do a Philadelphia sound show in Philly, Motown in Detroit, Cleveland funk in you know, Cleveland. But I am sure they don’t need my suggestions. I just want more and more people to experience the greatness and cleverness of the show. And my goodness does Akua Allrich have a voice as clear as a bell!

Finally, my moment of disappointment, I spent serious coins to attend the Summer Spirit festival this year. Last year I won tickets and I really should have attempted the same thing this year. We wanted to buy tickets because it has been rainy all summer and wanted to be prepared for D’Angelo. Well, D’Angelo cancelled his concert in Brooklyn on the Thursday before and things were getting iffy. We were mentally, but of course not emotionally prepared, for his cancellation and it came true. This lineup was really not worth the coins without D’Angelo. My theory for these things is if the festival ticket costs less than seeing the artists individually, then it’s a bargain. That was not true. Hiatus Kaiyote was interesting but still in the opening act stage of their careers. I like Black Alley but I’ve seen them free at local venues and once for <$20 as part of a larger local artists festival lineup. Backyard Band is not a group I normally check for, so I am not sure. Busta was okay. The problem is that he did snippets of each of this songs. I did not like that. Can I get an entire song? And no, I don’t want to hear your guest appearance on other songs. Nobody cares about that Pussycat Dolls song. I remember seeing Busta 15 years ago in college. Granted we were both younger but he had such stage presence and this was lacking something. I know…full songs! It felt like someone said that they didn’t know who he was and he just ran quickly through all his songs to prove his existence. We know who he is and we didn’t need that.

They replaced D’Angelo with Raheem Devaughn which someone annoyingly said that he was a better choice. This person has no taste and shouldn’t be trusted. I think Raheem completely gave it his A game, but it really didn’t matter. We came for D’Angelo, despite all of his troubles, a gifted singer and musician who created two terrific albums. Plus, Raheem performed for free right down the street from my house for National Night Out, so that eliminates any bargains there back to my original theory.  Finally Erykah came out all late. I know this because I needed to go to the bathroom. The attendees at this year’s festival were a bit more coarse than previous years and the one time I went to the bathroom wasn’t an experience I wanted to replicate for a host of reasons. I saw Erykah during her remarkable Baduizm / Mama’s Gun tour this year ($40) and while I love her, she wasn’t my draw to the festival. There is usually a 30 minute set-up time between artists. This was 45 minutes. She really had to be good since D’Angelo didn’t make it and last year, she was in one of her moods. She was at her mesmerizing, odd best. I’ll admit I left early as I had to go to the bathroom and decided it was best to go to my own bathroom. In short, unless the festival radically changes its lineup next year, I probably won’t attend. There were so many local artists that only the lawn makes sense cost-wise. However, the crowd was more annoying and I can see getting irritated really quickly. We shall see as I always say.

The Badu Edition

Fuzzy Ms. Badu

Fuzzy Ms. Badu

Last week, I was blessed with seeing Ms. Badu. Anyone who follows Erykah Badu regularly knows that her concerts constantly surprise. Last summer, when I saw her at the Summer Spirit Festival, she appeared irritated and sang no radio hits. She stuck mostly to the Worldwide Underground, my personal least favorite album, and Mama’s Gun. People wanted to hear Window Seat and other more recent work. Folks were disappointed. I wasn’t completely. Only because every time I see Badu, it’s an adventure.

My first time was in 2001, fresh from Mama’s Gun. We went Baltimore’s African American Heritage Festival, where she was the headliner. My friends disliked driving everywhere and insisted that we take the train. Plus, it was a Friday night and there was traffic to consider. My have times changed. Her show started late and we only had about 15 minutes to see her before we needed to catch the train. Luckily, we heard a few songs including my beloved Otherside of the Game. This no-driving plan turned out disastrous. We purchased the wrong tickets back to D.C. Thus, we each had to either pay an extra $30 to board the train or be stranded. Fortunately, my girlfriend was one of those women (not like me at all) who could charm a man into anything. Therefore, we ended up riding free on the next train. Through all of this drama, I kept thinking that I wish I was back at the Erykah show, can I rush back to the Erykah show. I was in love.

True confession: I didn’t own Mama’s Gun until about 2008 when I picked up the CD for $6 at a going out of business sale for a failed retailer I don’t remember: Tower, Circuit City, whatever. These things blend. My friends were incredulous that I didn’t love that CD. It was the best thing in human life according to them and I finally admitted that I didn’t own the CD. The problem lied with Bag Lady. Anyone around in summer of 2000 knows that song was a breakout hit. Radio stations and video channels played it incessantly. The song was background music in every restaurant, bar, lounge and I absolutely hated it. It caused mixed feelings. I wanted Erykah to have success, but with that song. Ugh. Anyway, I wrongly figured that song represented everything else on the album. It didn’t not and I found out eight years too late.

When she announced the tour of revisiting previous work, I was conflicted. I didn’t love her previous show and needed good mood Erykah to make effective use of my money. I’ve never seen her in a bad mood (just irritated) but those that have are scarred for life. I wanted intel on how the concerts were progressing before purchasing. Erykah makes me irrational. My favorite song is Otherside of the Game, but my anthem is Cleva (story of my existence). I couldn’t decide which show to see. With all of the vacillating, it was decided for me. The Friday Mama’s Gun show sold out. Baduizm it would be. I re-listened to Baduizm several times to prepare. I forgot how much that album takes me back to one of my favorite years. I swear 1997 was one of the best years of my life. I spend so many nights listening to that CD in my dorm room while completing assignments since my university refused to give students the basic human right of cable. Therefore, I only got about four channels on a regular basis. I was set for the nostalgia and what great nostalgia it would be.

I was ready for the show as I don’t get excited. I won’t mention the cramped conditions of Fillmore. I don’t understand how the venue skirts around fire code violations as I think there were about 300 too many people in the space. We were shoulder to shoulder and I couldn’t move my arms. Nonetheless, we had good mood Erykah that night. She even made jokes. The surprising thing about the concert was how straight forward it was. When I saw her a few years back, she sang Apple Tree as a reggae/ska song that forced the audience to listen closely for identification. The show had few remixes, even though that word minimizes what she does. She merged On and On with Mama’s Gun …& On. She turned my adored Otherside of the Game into a spiritual, trance experience with the addition of echo machines and primal screams. Other than a few gospel-tinged elements, she executed each song flawlessly as heard on the CD. For the uninitiated Erykah attendees, it may have given the wrong impression. Those folks might expect simple, great performances in the future and that’s a set-up for failure.

However, the encores killed my worry. First, she did a cover of Chaka’s Stay, but not just Stay as she weaved in elements of other songs. Then Didn’t Cha Know which she merged with Believe in Yourself from The Wiz. That was the kind of awesomeness I truly expected and makes me a believer. I didn’t want to leave. I saw someone selling tix to the Mama’s Gun show on Twitter and almost copped them. Then I remembered that I had visitors in town and, you know, I should be around. That’s what Erykah does to you. You only think of her and nothing else. Nothing else.