To say that Erykah Badu was the epicenter of a neo-soul hip hop experience Sunday night at the House of Blues would be an understatement. It wasn’t that the 38-year-old singer demanded attention – there were no antics or outlandish stunts during her nearly two-hour set – it was simply that her onstage presence was that of a true performer, undeniably magnetic in a way that makes you want to stare and keep staring.
It didn’t hurt that Miss Badu looked fabulous, either. Dressed in shiny silver leggings that sparkled like a disco ball and a red zip-up sweatshirt, she wore her Afro fashioned into a freestyle Mohawk that sprouted toward the ceiling and dramatic makeup that extended her eyes into red war paint.
And Badu was ready for battle Sunday night, taking the stage in front of a ten-piece band that included three singers, a DJ and a flutist and leading them through a collage of funk jams off her most recent album, New Amerykah, Pt.1 (4th World War) and older hits like “Bag Lady,” “Next Lifetime” and “On and On.” After kicking off with hypnotic rallying cry “The Healer,” Badu and co. revealed refashioned versions of her songs that branched into old-school hip hop interludes or extended breakdowns before wandering back into their original rhythms without losing momentum.
Singing, rapping and occasionally turning to a drum machine set up next to her microphone, the crowd followed Badu’s every beat and hip swing as she bounced back and forth across her musical repertoire. When the planned end of her set approached, Badu looked out and tested the House of Blues’ temperature.
“Fuck it; I’m still feeling it,” she said, before stripping away her jacket to reveal a worn T-shirt and launching back into the music.
So were we, Erykah. So were we.