When an artist remains mostly anonymous for the greater part of 15 years, the anticipation of the audience is bound to grow with every minute that goes by. On this night, the sold out Best Buy Theater was electric with energy that grew with every flicker of the lights. The impatience of the crowd was finally released when D’Angelo took center stage, by himself, laying down his first solo vocals of the evening from “Prayer”mesmerizing the crowd with his harmonious R&B melody.
While the album title Black Messiah may lead one to expect a conceited performance, D’Angelo constantly recognized his band and allowed each member to solo and show off their individual talents while he cycled through vocals, keys, and guitar. One by one, The Vanguard took the stage, first with Jesse Johnson (guitar, Prince) who showed off his glitter covered guitar and Hendrix-esque shredding capabilities. Next up was Pino Palladino (bass, The Who post-John Entwistle) who laid down deep bass lines and funky grooves that kept the crowd bouncing all night, doing his best Bootsy Collins impression. The remainder of The Vanguard consisted of Chris Dave (drums), Isaiah Sharkey (guitar), Cleo “Pookie” Sample (keyboard), and Kendra Foster (vocals, P-Funk) who brought beauty, energy, and harmony to compliment D’Angelo’s blissful melodies.
As we moved through the first hour D’Angelo weaved in and out of tunes new and old, with well thought out segues between smooth rhythm & blues and pure funk grooves. The band was joined on stage by a small strings section composed of violists and a cellist for “Really Love” and the Heatwave cover “Star of the Story”. At this point the strings were substituted out by a duo of horns consisting of “Brother” Jacques Schwarz-Bart (saxaphone) and Darren Barrett (trumpet) while D’Angelo serenaded the ladies on a soul thumping rendition of his 1995 hit “Brown Sugar”. Once the horn section joined in, it was a non-stop funk party for the last hour of the night. The band weaved in and out of D’Angelo originals covering tunes from all three of his albums with some highlights being the hip-hop driven “Chicken Grease” off of 2000’s Voodoo, “Lady” off of Brown Sugar, and “Back To The Future (part 1)” the aptly named song off of Black Messiah.
The D’Angelo concert experience is like a funk and soul “Back To The Future” trip conjuring images of ’70s and ’80s icons transformed into a futuristic world saving setting a la Wyld Stallyns.
Setlist: Prayer, 1000 Deaths, Ain’t That Easy, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Really Love, One Mo’Gin, Star of the Story, Brown Sugar, The Charade, Sugah Daddy
Encore: Lady, Back To The Future, Left & Right, Chicken Grease
Encore 2: Till It’s Done, How Does It Feel
Setlist via SetlistFM