Editor: Erykah Badu played a birthday show last night at the Granada. Two of those in the sold-out crowd were DC9 at Night writers Vanessa Quilantan and Deb Doing Dallas, who set up camp on the balcony. Here is their report.
Deb Doing Dallas: Going to an Erykah Badu show in Dallas isn't only about the music. For most of Dallas, Tuesday was a marathon of birthday wishes and social media connections taking roll calls of who would be there, who you'd meet, and of who you hoped to see. Personally, Badu becomes a connector. An artist who unites a group of strangers with a special bond. Before the show we trade stories of previous shows, favorite interview clips and anecdotes of friends of friends telling outlandish stories of "diva" behavior around town. We are all connecting ourselves to her, someone's friend of a cousin of a husband, our neo-soul Lady of the Lake, making her appearance in our backseat.
We realize one in our group has never seen her live. Very seriously someone explains, "You know when Oprah had that Master Class? It's like that. But better and with more weed."
See? Nothing of the music, but plenty regarding the transcendence.
Vanessa Quilantan: When we walked in, that hospitable Granada Theater staff swept us away to the reserved "Bad Bitches Box," our group's own little oasis. Once we settled in and ordered drinks, we were content to mingle for the next few hours. "Badu time" had been the long running joke all night, and the standing wager was that there was no way she'd be on stage before 11 p.m. When Dallas' Redbull Thre3style Champion A1 wrapped up his set, and the Cannabanoids took the stage, we all expected a long improv warm up from the local favorites. Much to our surprise, Ms. Badu wasted no time getting down to business.
Deb: Heavy on the Baduism and Mama's Gun, track after track had a nugget of muse that you'd relate to no matter where you'd found yourself in life. The Badu performance is comforting; the Badu mythology is wise and loyal and drapes us in her warm vibrato and sultry delivery before screaming into that next octave.
And the screams and scats were there. Every time Badu inches towards something more ferocious, like when we were momentarily teased with "The Healer," I remember that we trade this comfort for fewer performance of her more politically charged material on New Amerykah, Part One or Two. I understand wanting to skip it for a birthday concert, but I wonder sometimes if we have actually put our siren in a box. Vanessa: There's something really beautiful about the way a Badu show seems time find a woman in trepidation at just the right time. More than a few of us in that "Bad Bitch" oasis last night were there with a heavy heart. Many of us shared stories of our stressful weeks or taxing personal circumstances throughout the night, and how we just knew that this was going to be exactly what we needed.
Erykah Badu is the kind of performer who takes the stage to bare her soul, and in her performance we see a reflection of ourselves in her vulnerability, her fears, and her insecurities. She breaks down to the core of us, and builds us back up again. She reminds us when we need it most, to release what ails us and open ourselves up to the potential of a brighter day. She urges us to remember, that maybe love can make it better- sometimes when no one else can.
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Deb: People are effusive about Badu because there is much to be effusive about. Her older material more than stands the test of time, her newer material is challenging, and new arrangements of her entire opus are delivered at nearly every show. She makes it look easy, and almost implies that it should be, but it's clear she is doing the work.
She looks to the crowd and says, "So, everyone on the radio sounds like they are from Texas now." A call-out to the newfound "trill-wave" movement coming from the East, but an important part of the story she creates for Dallas. The confidence to think someone might like to be like us, create like us, think like us. But the us is singular. Forty-two years later, this is her city; we are all just dancing in it. Or we should be.