Hollywood, CA- It’s been about a year since she released her album “A Seat At The Table”, and by all accounts Solange has not only earned a seat, but she has built her own table to sit at.
“A Seat At The Table” is not a “traditional” R&B/Soul album filled with love songs and retro soul vibes. It’s an album that yells from the rafters emotions and themes of independence, anger and yearning painted with a pro-black, “Black Lives Matter” palette. This fierce album was not only a proclamation, but also a release for Solanage, with the album being the plate that served the music as food for the soul.
Touring in support of “A Seat At The Table”, Solange brought her show to the Hollywood Bowl, titling her appearance at the venerable venue a “Cosmic Journey”. From the first note of “Rise” to that symbolic moment at the end of her performance when she dropped to one knee in solidarity with those athletes protesting racial inequality, Solange gave about as complete a show musically and artistically as I have ever seen or heard at The Bowl.
I had been able to see Solange perform at FYF back in July, and while I was impressed with her performance then, the Hollywood Bowl’s expansive stage provided her with a huge canvas that simply made the artistic presentation of Solange’s show so much more grand this time around. With the huge orb hanging in the center of her set, I actually got the feeling this time around that it was symbolic of the world that Solange wanted to create for us that night.
At the start of her set, the huge orb glowed red as musicians positioned themselves on the leveled stage’s steps downstage. Solange makes a grand entrance, emerging from the top of the set and deliberately walked down the platformed steps to center stage. With a red spotlight following her down the steps, she was joined by two female backup singers who matched Solange step for step during “Rise”. Even the full orchestra seated on the leveled stage behind her had choreographed foot movements.
Solange addressed the audience proclaiming, “I want you to sing with me, this is church night y’all,” and from that moment, we were all engaged, expressly asked to be part of the experience that Solange was living that evening. Some fans were more part of the experience than others as during “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work”, Solange got down in the “pool seats“, and sang and danced with various fans. One lucky male fan was sung to for several bars, with Solange’s face mere inches from his own.
While her set focused predominantly on the music from “A Seat At The Table”, she did incorporate a handful of tracks from the EP that was produced by Dev Hynes (who also joined her on stage to play) and even performed “Crush”, a track off of her first album that she recorded when she was 16 years old. I was little surprised that she didn’t actually perform her song “Cosmic Journey” (with a featured performance by Bilal), but I won’t hold that against her.
The show culminated in her closing out her show with her popular song “Don’t Touch My Hair”. As she conducted her orchestra, and invited all of the opening acts back on stage, the music crescendoed louder and louder. And as the music neared towards the end, Solange exited the way she came, climbing those steps back up to the top, above the huge orb.
Opening act performances included one song by Kelsey Lu, two songs by Moses Sumney and three songs by King. I’m actually a big fan of each of these three artist’s music, however, their short set times- if you can even call them set times- was too brief for me to really weigh in substantively on any of their performances.
Kelela was the first opening act with a relatively proper opening set length (four songs). I enjoy her music, but for this performance I felt that the levels on her backing vocal tracks were a bit overpowering, and distracting. After thanking Solange and proclaiming that singing for us was “[the] the greatest pleasure”, the drum and bass of her second song “Rewind” kicked in. At this point, I could tell that the audience decided it was time to truly get into the groove, as I could smell Ms. Mary Jane in the air. Pretty fitting since Kelela closed her set with her song “The High”.
Dev Hynes, together with an 8 person backing band, then took the stage with his musical project Blood Orange. Whenever Dev performs, he always has a few surprises up his sleeve. On this evening, he had two. First, he debuted some new music: the songs titled “Charcoal Baby” (see video below) and “Nappy Wonder”. But the highlight of his performance was when he invited the L.A. based singer songwriter Empress Of on stage to sing “Best Of You”. While he also had her join him for his FYF performance, it was nice to see a rising recording artist get a little taste of performing at the hallowed venue.
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