At 9 p.m. there was a hush as the house music dims and two performers took the stage, lit by a single spotlight. The master of ceremonies popped up in a white tuxedo, androgynous and contorting, followed by a single trumpeter. Move over Beckett, this is Badu’s stage.
What followed was a birthday party in 14 acts. Thundercat played, Tierra Whack got the crowd bouncing and Trapboy Freddy was in top form. The prodigal daughter, Puma, came out for a single, soulful number. In between, there was dancing, lots of dancing, and it was all great. Musicians and equipment were rolled in and out of place on the Spartan set, which led to a couple of malfunctions, but they were overcome and the show rolled on.
As good as it was, 14 acts is still 14 acts. Even Godot only has two. As Saturday started winding down, some of the entertainment seemed less like a tasty appetizer, and more like another barrier between the crowd and the start of the main course. Francis and the Lights bore the worst of the crowd’s restlessness. Appearing without the Lights or any visible accompaniment, a set that started as endearing ended in a tacit, though tangible, “Thank you, but we want Erykah.”
OK, wait, wait, WAIT one fucking minute! It’s Erykah Badu’s birthday and damn it was only 2 o’clock in the morning. The party was just getting started. A cake was rolled out as friends, family and performers crowded onto the stage. Balloons came down and confetti came up. "We gonna do this two ways," someone announced: "The normal way and then the black people’s way."
The onstage group sang happy birthday and then the real party started. Badu was dancing. Badu was twerking. Badu was crowd surfing. Badu was kissing her children and smiling hard and … Badu was happy. And it's no longer just Badu whose happiness we'd be allowed to participate in — Badu the performer, the myth and superstar, but Erykah's; Erykah the person, Puma's mom, the one celebrating with family, letting all of Dallas celebrate with her. Time stood still, and for a fleeting moment we got a glimpse of the woman behind the force field of Badu’s personality. It was pretty awesome.