Concert Review: India.Arie

AllHipHop Staff

Date: February 5, 2009 Location: Unitel Studios, New York, NY

On an arctic New York night, Neo-Soul chanteuse India.Arie marked

her return to live performance with a taping for VH1’s Soul Stage. With the

release date of her fourth disc Testimony: Volume 2, Love & Politics approaching, the two-time Grammy winner was beyond

excited. “I’m so happy to be

here!” was the mantra for an evening where her word proved to be bond.

Gliding onto the small stage in a sleeveless black

turtleneck and dazzling full-length skirt, the newly shorn Arie kicked off her

ten-song set with fan favorite “Video” from her 2001 debut Acoustic Soul. Her stellar four piece band and three background

singers underscored the bonus of an additional verse for “Video” – updated

with new lyrics that reflect her personal changes since the songs original


Arie chatted up the crowd on her creative process between

“Grains”, a sweet, harmony filled interlude included on Testimony: Vol. 2 and “Ghetto”, her ode to the commonalities of poor

areas worldwide. “This is the first album where I see myself as I am right

now”, she offered. “This is world music.” 

“This is actually a political song”, Arie said before her

trio of background singers began harmonizing the opening notes of “Chocolate

High”, her duet with Musiq Soulchild. 

“A song can be sensual without

being sexual.” Her male background singer proved a more than ample stand-in for

the missing Musiq and got the multi-hued crowd swaying in their seats.

Sandwiching new music between old, her background provided

the perfect blend to her alto dips on the classic “Brownskin”, given a

refreshing new arrangement with a healthy dose of heavy bass and keys. The

recent Presidential election wasn’t overlooked in song as Arie gave a sparkling

rendition of “There’s Hope”, a song included on the playlist for CNN’s coverage

of the latest Presidential election.

Continuing with her world music theme, Sade’s “Pearls” was

vocally injected with the rhythmic sounds of Africa without distracting from

the songs original sentiment. Joining

Arie on stage for the reggae-kissed “Therapy”, Morgan Heritage’s Gramps Morgan

backing vocals and appropriately placed chants of “Oh” between the choruses provided

the ideal combination to Arie’s airy, crisp vocals.

By the time she arrived at the song written by her mother,

“Long Goodbye”, India.Arie had nothing else to prove. Obviously never one to

rest on her laurels, midway through “Ready for Love”, Arie established her

skillfulness as a flutist, further demonstrating that her musical gifts were in

abundance and display for the evening. The audience was held hostage and

released by the voice of angel ready to soar again – and they didn’t seem

to mind one bit. **To get the latest AllHipHop Alternatives Features, follow us on Twitter @**