“You waited 13 years, what’s two more hours.”-Questlove
The perpetually jovial Hip-Hop historian/drummer/everything Questlove said this around 11 pm to hundreds of people who had been standing in sardine formation for hours waiting for a 9pm show to start. Mick Boogie did an exceptional job entertaining the near riotous crowd with an expert blend of old school cuts from almost any and every artist that ever participated in the Soulaquarian movement. However, with no opening act and the crowd body heat reaching critical levels people began to plan exit plans. Some concert goers were even overheard giving the reclusive genius until 11pm to materialize or he would be replaced with DVR viewings of “Girls”.
Once the 5’6, 38-year-old phenom emerged dressed in all black like The Omen with Questlove in tow (sporting a “Free Pussy Riot” shirt) disgruntled sighs quickly turned to jubilant yells. Before his ravishing opening cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Let Me Have It All”. Before his beautifully controlled wailing high notes on Voodoo‘s “The Root”. Before the show really started, all there was were two men and hundreds of cheers.
Then history began.
Unofficial moderator Questlove informed the crowd from the beginning this performance will resemble the numerous jam sessions him and D’angelo have when recording music. That feel permeated every facet of their performance. Whether it be the unspoken back and forth joking between two longtime friends during songs such as The Funkadelics’ “Cosmic Slop” or how each song bled into the next, the performance always retained this organic feel.
The set list took the gleeful spectators through classics from D’angelo’s two masterful albums 1995’s Brown Sugar and 2000’s epochal game changer Voodoo and also covers of bands that influenced the brilliant singer. D’angelo’s vocal command was as crisp as ever with only a few spots during a cover of The Ohio Players’ “Our Love Has Died” showing signs of rust natural with such a prolonged absence from regular live performances. An underrated talen of his is his expert musicianship and the way he manipulated the Fender Rhodes and Hohner D6 Clavinet while belting out intricate vocal patterns was mesmerizing. The big voice did not match the sheepish demeanor D’angelo displayed throughout the night.
Following a rendition of “Really Love”, the packed Brooklyn Bowl crowd applauded so loudly Questlove and D’angelo could not communicate, prompting the always loquacious drummer to deliver the night’s most heartfelt and revelatory moment.
“Keep clapping. Let him know he is loved or y’all might have to wait until 2044 for the next album.”
There was a microphone in the center of the stage that was not used for one single song. D’angelo, the emblem of the golden era in neo-soul returns to Brooklyn for the first time in over a decade and opts to play on the side instead of center. This was not simply another test run for a D’Angelo re-acclimating himself to not only the grind of performing but the realization of his immutable impact. This was a reclusive genius coming out of hiding to see not if he still had it but if the people still wanted it.
He only spoke one word in the center mic, a singular “yes” at the end of jam session. He was answering Questlove’s question “Is the album almost done?”
Besides a few soft spoken “Thank You’s” and one “I love you too” he let the music speak. After the last cymbals crash on the epic Voodoo closer “Africa” and the two men returned to the backstage area, fans did not have to wait 10 years for a follow up performance but rather a few minutes for the encore. D’angelo and Questlove capped the night off with a soul-stirring rendition of Brown Sugar‘s “Alright”.
Overall, D’angelo proved why he is in another stratosphere than the new generation of experimental urban singers(read: Frank Ocean/The Weekend). D’angelo has reentered himself into the national consciousness and the only thing left is to hear the as-of-yet untitled album before he can dust off the crown he relinquished over a decade ago.
Here is the complete set list:
1) Go Back To The Thing / Let Me Have It All (Sly & The Family Stone cover)
2) Cosmic Slop (Funkadelic cover)
3) Woman’s Gotta Have It (Bobby Womack cover) / The Line
4) You Caught Me Smilin’ (Sly & The Family Stone cover)
5) Tell Me If You Still Care (The S.O.S. Band cover)
6) Our Love Has Died (Ohio Players cover)
7) The Root
8) Alright / Mother’s Son (Curtis Mayfield cover)
9) Really Love
10) New Position (Prince & The Revolution cover) / Africa
11) Lady (encore)
Check out D’angelo perform the Brown Sugar cut, “Alright” at last night’s Brooklyn Bowl show: