Sunday, June 6, 2010
ERYKAH BADU/N*E*R*D/JANELLE MONAE: PIER SIX CONCERT PAVILION--- MAY 30, 2010
On a muggy May evening, I had the pleasure to witness the soul artistry of Erykah Badu at Pier Six Concert Pavilion. Unfortunately, I was not able to see opening act and industry darling Janelle Monae, replete with her musical idiosyncrasies that will undoubtedly put Lady Gaga to shame, and N*E*R*D, Pharrell Williams hybrid musical endeavor. On paper, this line-up seems to be the anti-music industry, because boundaries have been erased with their various projects, be it Janelle Monae and her recent ArchAndroid, N*E*R*D offering Seeing Sounds from 2008, and the new Badu project New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh.
Even though this show was a week ago, my memory serves me well. Even though I was not fortunate enough to be inside Pier Six for the concert, and arrived relatively late to the event, I felt the energy from the Pier Seven crowd in front of the Waterfront Marriott. Ms. Badu hit the stage at approximately 9:50 PM, dressed in black, rocking a black top hat. Her concert garb was fitting, because she seemed to be a tad bit subdued once she hit the stage. Cheers from inside the concert venue could be clearly heard across the waterway, and the Pier Seven crowd cheered equally as loud once the neo-soul darling took to the stage. Songs from New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh were interspersed with older gems throughout the show. The fans were entertained as Badu interacted with the crowd, announcing she would “chop and screw for you”, a line from her Overlover cut. Even though there were no missteps in her performance, something to me was amiss. Perhaps she was weary from her travels during this tour, or still reeling from the controversial “Window Seat” video, but I could sense that this top-notch performer was bringing her B-game (which is better than 99% of today’s musical landscape).
While the performance was in effect, I noticed individuals around me engaged in selling Badu paraphernalia, a sea of lawn and collapsible chairs, and even a young brother walking around with a blue pitbull that scared the daylights out of everyone on Pier Seven. From my vantage point, I couldn’t help but notice all of the people that were there to enjoy some good music, numbering in the hundreds. Interacting with the Baltimore crowd, asking the crowd how they felt, was a nice touch to her performance that evening. Throughout the evening, Badu was able to mix her neo-soul and funk with her b-girl sensibilities, something I always enjoy. It’s good to see that this artist of the first kind takes very seriously her hip hop roots, and isn’t afraid to intertwine hip hop with her brand of musicality. During her hour and twenty minute or so set, she went through the old school hip hop catalogue while performing for the musically hungry audience. “Top Billin’ ” by Audio Two, the go-go staple “Sardines and Pork n Beans”, and Whodini’s “Friends” were just a few of the songs that served as backdrop for Ms. Badu during her stage performance.
“Out My Mind, Just In Time” (which includes my favorite album portion Recovering Undercover Over-lover) was one of the best show moments, along with her taking .time during the performance to hit the drum machine for some impromptu live beats. Badu left the stage, to the dismay of many in attendance, without bringing to the masses her “Window Seat” performance. She returned to many cheers and commenced to bless the crowd (with her clothes on of course). She also launched into “Bag Lady”, using the song as a source of therapy for herself and countless others. Ms. Badu closed with the crowd placing their lit cell phones in the air while Common’s “The Light” set the mood. All in all, the performance was good, but because I’ve been spoiled by previous Badu performances, I expected more, and unfortunately, my lofty expectations weren’t met. This is definitely not a negative review of a dope show, but perhaps a measuring stick for future shows, because Erykah Badu has set the bar EXTREMELY high. Let’s hope that expectations are exceeded next go round for me.