D’angelo is in fine form
“You all just want to see what he looks like !” Kojo the comedian said as he warmed up a crowd that had a more balanced female:male ratio that I would have imagined.
He was right. D’angelo, the candidate for the most lusted after male artist of the 90s, became more known for an association with cocaine, alcohol and encounters with the police. The multi-instrumentalist and vocal maestro remembered for a body sculpted for sin, had really let himself go.
It wasn’t an undignified Lindsey Lohan descent into bad teeth and lockdown. But that one picture of an overweight man with debris on his face was enough to make a lot of black women in their 20s lock the memories of D’angelo in the box called ‘nostalgia’ and hope Jason Derulo doesn’t go the same way.
We really needed D’angelo to make a comeback. Usher, Omarian, Mario, Lloyd etc. don’t make soul music. They barely play instruments and they are only as good as their producers. D’angelo was our Prince for the 90s – artists today could never sing tracks Brown Sugar or Africa, keen as they are to have their mass, choreographed appeal. D’angelo was at the centre of neo-soul.
So yes, we wanted to know what he looked like – badly. We also wanted to know something more important: ‘does he still sound the same?’ Singers can be fat and girls will still fancy them. No one want to pass the time with someone who sounds like Lee from Steps.
I don’t know what rehabilitation route D’angelo took but he needs to call Whitney, Bobby, Lindsay and Frankie Cocozza and hook them up. The voice is even better than it sounds on CD. He range is frighteningly in tact, his James Brown screams were iconic and I don’t recall hearing anything out of place.
The show was one for the card carrying members of the Brown Sugar and Voodoo clubs (not having much more to choose from anyway) and he made his way through electrified versions of Chicken Grease, Devil’s Pie, Cruisin’ and Feel Like Makin’ Love.
Wearing what could only be described as an asymmetric string rag and a heavily mis-shapen vest that exposed him in all the right places, he looked like a reinvented D’angelo who is still doing the same things; working out, singing great and playing live with bags of soul. Only now, he’s experimenting with neo-rock.
The Jimi Hendrix vibe he was chasing got too much in places. All the guitars were switched up to 11 and half way through there was a Spinal Tap moment when a guitar solo that bore no resemblance the accompaniment went on for a bit too long.
However, credit to him for not doing strolling on to the stage, stripping down to his pants, singing Untitled and then leaving. Because most of us would have found that value for money. Instead, he gave modern day R’n’B crooners food for thought: could they lead a live band for 90 minutes then sit behind a keyboard and run through every song on a 17 year old record that still sounds astonishing?
D’angelo is back.