*Tuesday night, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania crowd became citizens of a New Amerykah as Erykah Badu mesmerized a capacity crowd with her blend of soul, funk, jazz, and hip hop all rolled up in what can only be described as Baduizm.
Ms. Badu took the stage at Philadelphia’s Tower Theater at 10:10pm and the capacity crowd greeted her by standing and cheering as she walked on stage in sweatpants, a t-shirt bearing her youngest child Mars’ name, a pair of black heels and to give the outfit that extra bit of Erykah, a top hat.
They remained standing, screaming, flashing pictures as the music played and the anticipation built. A sip of tea and she began her assault on her willing victims with “20 Feet Tall” from her latest album, The New Amerykah Part II: The Return of the Ankh and carefully weaved through songs from that album and its predecessor, The New Amerykah Part I: The 4th World War, as the crowd remained standing through the first five songs. Nearly two hours later as she finished “Bag Lady” and went into “Window Seat”, they were still standing.
“The Out of My Mind, Just in Time” tour is Ms. Badu’s latest offering for her legions of fans that have been under her spell since 1997’s Baduizm and those she’s picked up along the way with a catalog as diverse as the outfits she wears and monikers she goes by. The set list is filled with her most recent work, but 20 minutes into the show, she took the crowd back to 1997 by performing “On & On”, “Appletree”, “No Love” and my personal favorite, “Next Lifetime”. She returned to her latest album following an interlude about the effect that she has on the men she gets into relationships with before going into “Fall in Love (Your Funeral”)” and the playful interlude, “Loving Me”.
The highlight of the night was a soul wrenching rendition and J-Dilla dedicated performance of “Didn’t Cha Know” from 2000’s Mama’s Gun, honoring the song’s late producer, as well as interpolating “Believe in Yourself” from The Wiz in an apparent tribute to the amazing Lena Horne. She stood center stage and belted out notes from deep within that reminded everyone in attendance of the reason they spent their hard-earned money for tickets.
She continued to pour through her catalog, played classic drum beats on her drum machine, turned the show into a party with “I Want You” from Worldwide Underground and before saying goodnight…but that didn’t last long, because there were more gems (obvious and hidden) to be sung. Like, “Love of My Life”, “Soldier”, and “Me” and then she was gone from the stage again. Only to return two minutes later as the still standing crowd begged for an encore, to which their pleas were answered by a performance of “Bag Lady” that found her walking through the crowd, giving impromptu auditions for background singers, before heading back to the stage to close out the show with “Window Seat”.
While Erykah Badu was delicious as the main course, Philadelphia soul singer Bilal and newcomer Janelle Monae were tasty as the appetizers. The hometown boy Bilal eschewed crowd favorites from his 2001 debut 1st Born Second in favor of material from his widely bootlegged album Love for Sale and the upcoming Air Tight’s Revenge, due September 14th. Most of the audience grooved to the music and tried to make out the lyrics to the new material, but nearly bust from the seams during the opening riffs of “Sometimes” and completely came undone when he closed out with the hit “Soul Sista”.
Janelle Monet’s set was short, but filled with energy and reminiscent of the stage shows of the glory days of R&B. She slipped, slid, pranced, held powerful notes and then tipped on the tightrope during an excellent rendition of her hit single of the same name, culminating with her being cloaked by what looked like an angel of death a la the famous James Brown bit. She definitely picked up new fans, as I saw many people return to their seats following interruptions with a copy of her debut album The ArchAndroid.
Last night’s show was just what I needed to continue my celebration of Black Music Month, a night of live vocals, entertaining stage shows and most important, soul! When I exited the Tower Theater wiping sweat from my brow, I felt like I owed Badu a couple of extra dollars, because she gave us our money’s worth and then some. If you’re a fan and this tour is heading to your city, I would advise you to get your ticket now, wear something comfortable and prepare to go out of your mind, just in time.
About the writer
Between rhetoric and reality is where you’ll find The World According to Teef. Plainfield, NJ native Al-Lateef Farmer is a self-styled social documentarian that tackles everything from politics to pop culture, Reality TV to relationships with a brand of social commentary rooted in independent thought that is unfiltered, uncensored, unforgiving, but never unreal! Take a trip to his world at http://worldaccording2teef.blogspot.com/