Erykah Badu WinStar World Casino, Thackerville, Okalahoma Saturday, July 12, 2014
From Oak Cliff to just over the Oklahoma border to WinStar World Casino it's just about 80 miles, roughly 90 minutes if you get lucky and there's no traffic. From Dallas proper it's an hour and from Denton it's just a shade over a half hour. This explains why more then 3,100 people made it to the casino's event center to watch Dallas born and internet and critical darling Erykah Badu perform last Saturday night.
It's been 17 years since Badu set the music world on fire with Baduizm, 14 since she was the only thing worth a damn in Blues Brothers 2000, 10 since she was in Dave Chappelle's Block Party, and just 16 days since she hijacked a new broadcast in New York and went viral. In short she's had a hell of a career, the type of career that raises you to legend status, the type of status that leads you to being able to take over a 3,500 capacity venue at a casino and have no issue almost selling it out.
This makes sense as she's widely beloved, as is gambling. Hell, gambling is so beloved that WinStar World Casino recently became the world's largest casino, and along with it's big name act booking, it's become one of the most acclaimed music stops in the south. Rumors even have it that's it's planning to build a larger venue, one that could challenge the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie.
So that's why it's only in Oklahoma that can you lose a bunch of money on a Dolly Parton slot machine, then when win some back on a Ghosbusters machine before seeing Erykah Badu play to a packed room.
The line to get into the venue started forming a good two hours before showtime, as travelers from Dallas either had stayed the night before in the casino or had driven up early to make sure they got in early. Gambling may have ruled everything around them, but Badu ruled their attention.
Walking into the venue I noticed that many of the attendees were dressed to the nines, as if nothing less should be expected for seeing Dallas' favorite daughter. I'm pretty sure the various dudes sporting fedoras and trilbys are part of the Men's Rights Activist movement.
The crowd packed in and Badu's backing band, including members of RC & the Gritz and the assorted members of the Cannabinoids, kicked the tempo up, keeping it steady till Badu glided onto the stage adorned in a large hat and tank-top, at once reserved and fashion forward. Of course fashion forward and Badu go hand in hand; she's not just a fashion icon but a designer of some renown.
Just seeing Badu on stage caused the crowd to erupt. Immediately there were about 40 different dance parties breaking out amongst the aisles. Badu wore a wide grin as she started working through her material, almost barely audible over fans sang along to every lyric, hook and refrain.
"Keep in mind I'm an artist. I'm sensitive about my shit," Badu said between songs at one point, talking directly to the crowd about the trials and tribulations of aging and growing. The crowd never let things get melancholy, though, and cheered so loud that a smirk was locked on Badu's face. She seemed to be having a great time, pausing frequently to banter with the crowd between hooks. It really is a treat to see an artist so comfortable with themselves, and their fans.
Midway through her set Badu performed "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop)," complete with a decade-sprawling melody that saw her jumping around from her contemporaries, her forbearers and the artist that have come after her. It's during this song that I spotted a mother and daughter dancing and singing along to Badu, doing N.W.A. verses (very carefully trying to not say a certain word) while stopping for selfies every few seconds. It was sort of my everything to see this -- the ultimate tribute to Badu's crossover appeal.
There were so many people from Dallas at WinStar that when Badu yelled "Dallas!" the crowd erupted in cheers, even though they were in Oklahoma. Her family was in attendance too and Badu took the time to introduce each one of them to the audience. And yet she also never forgot to tell the crowd how much she loves them and how much she loves Dallas.
For the encore, Badu returned to do "Tyrone," her biggest hit and maybe the best song ever written about a scrub of a man. People started dancing like it was the last night on the planet, everyone (myself included) singing along.
As the show ended, we all spilled out into the casino, some people heading for a buffet, some for a poker table, many grabbing a slot machine. Still others ride the high of watching Badu all the way back to Dallas, elated over having seen easily one of the best artists to ever come from Texas. She's unreal.