With all apologies to Beck and Sharon Jones, nobody I’ve seen has completely owned the crowd from beginning to end the way Erykah Badu did yesterday afternoon, from the raucous applause that greeted her as she slowly and confidently strode on stage during the funky soul of “New Amerykah” to closing burner “Honey.”
Her set was heavy on new songs; about half came from her latest album, New Amerykah Part 1 (Fourth World War). Though few in the crowd seemed familiar with the material, the new songs were received with as much enthusiasm as older hits “On and On” and “Tyrone.” Scattered cheers rang out as she sang “Hip hop is bigger than religion / Hip hop is bigger than the government,” over trippy Rhodes during “The Healer;” the crowd was clearly a bit wary about the suggestion that hip hop could be as big as religion (some things clearly haven’t changed much since John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus more than four decades ago), but it seemed we could all agree on the government. “Me” was a real crowd pleaser too, with a strong female response to “This year I turn 36 / My ass and thighs have gotten thick.” Then, blissfully smacking out thick beats on a drum machine during “Appletree,” Ms. Badu looked even happier than the audience.
She was as political as she was personal, asking the crowd what they thought about the possibility of a black president; the huge cheers suggested they were agreeable to the notion. After “Love of My Life,” she explained that the title of her latest came from The Third World War, a documentary about the resistance of various oppressed people.
“The Fourth World War is gonna be the people against power,” she said. “Not black people or Latin people: all people.”
Then she went into “Soldier,” singing, “Do you want to see everybody rise to this degree? / Raise your hands if you agree. Just say ‘yessiree.’” Judging by the audience response, the support was unanimous. –Jesse Hughey