At this point in her legendary career, Erykah Badu performances are more akin to benedictions than concerts—celebrations of blackness and art and spirituality so fulfilling that even white dudes such as myself come away from them feeling anew.
After being baptized by Queen Badu, Holy Doula of Art and Music (and literal doula of babies) last night, it was hard to leave the Schnitz not feeling at least a little reborn. Badu preached, rapped, clowned her band, herself and the audience, gave poignant life advice, played bandleader and blessed us with that voice throughout a set that touched on everything from her game-changing debut to her 2015 mixtape But You Cain't Use My Phone. Badu's large band is more of a funky orchestra than your typical backing group, one that's so totally attuned to her various whims and tangents—Badu would frequently stop mid-song if the mood struck her and begin to preach on varying subjects—that they operate as an extension of the singer, performing as one soulful superorganism.
All of the traditionally black American musical forms—jazz, soul, funk, blues, hip-hop—were not only touched upon, but visited with the utmost grace and aplomb. The show had a gloriously freewheeling feel that made it seem as though the music could have gone in any direction at any moment, and the air crackled with the sort of jubilant excitement most artists spend a lifetime trying to conjure in a live setting. Given that Robert Glasper, a headliner in his own right who topped the bill the next night at Roseland, opened the evening, it's difficult to think of a better way to kick off this year's Soul'd Out. For every census henceforth, I'll be pencilling in "Baduizm" as my religion.
All photos by Abby Gordon.