a Kiss (on the Neck) at Midnight
at House of Blues, New Year’s Eve
Shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, Erykah Badu took the stage at the House of Blues wearing designer bag-lady gear (Chanel, Gucci) and sporting a massive, dusty, tangled wig. Very Mahogany on crack. She opened the show with the ribald “Annie Don’t Wear No Panties” and for almost two hours gave a concert that has to rank as one of her finest — no small thing considering that Ms. Badu is one of the most phenomenal live performers around. In great voice and dancing her funky ass off, she premiered some new material, sang a shitload of hits and fan favorites (“Cleva,” “Apple Tree,” “I Want You,” “Danger,” “Booty,” “Kiss Me on My Neck,” “Back in the Day”), did what seemed to be an impromptu but lovely version of “Believe in Yourself” from the Wiz, and created a frenzy when, during “Love of My Life,” she wove in full verses from Doug E. Fresh’s “La Di Da Di” and N.W.A’s “Gangsta Gangsta,” both of which became crowd sing-alongs. But wait, there’s more. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she began, “I was gon’ do something this evening — but there’s somebody off to the side who might could do it better.” And with that, Jill Scott stepped from the wings to sing “You Got Me.” (A woman standing next to me sighed in distress, “She straightened her hair!”) The performance was stellar, but even more cool was the sisterly camaraderie between the two women. Love was palpable. Ironically, the late start and the House of Blues strict running-time policy actually worked to Badu’s advantage. Hardcore fans willingly roll with her live-show indulgences, but that’s often meant performances that meander and lose momentum. Like so many artistic eccentrics and iconoclasts, Badu works best when chafing against restraints. They force discipline and focus. She had those on New Year’s Eve, and they freed her. (Ernest Hardy)
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