The matriarch of nu soul, Erykah Badu, hit the stage the The Star Event Centre in Sydney on April 17th presented by Niche Productions and Live Nation. Taking to the stage in a bright poncho over a loose fitting black outfit complete with oversized hat as abstract images shifted on the huge screen behind the stage, Badu captivated and commanded the audience’s attention with style while delivering a solid set of neo and future soul sounds.
With her beat machine placed beside her, Badu implemented an impromptu jam feel to her show, starting off many songs with a beat before the band joined in and filled out the song with layer after layer like a slice of the decadent French patisserie, mille-feuille. Instead of sweets though, it was lavishly heavy beats and soul stirring lyrics that we were treated to. The upside of the somewhat slow starts to the songs was that the audience felt like they were experiencing something uniquely special versus a run-of-the-mill show. The downside was that it prevented some songs from fully taking flight, with stopping and starting throughout songs being a consistent theme.
Not until she dropped “I Want You” from Worldwide Underground did Badu and her band transcend the disjointed vibe and fully envelope the audience with a full funk feel by throwing into the mix the Yarborough & Peoples '80s R&B classic, “Don’t Stop The Music.” The song soared and the audience was elevated with it. From here on the momentum of the show flowed on more fluidly.
This being Badu’s third round of shows in Australia since 2011, and with a plethora of soul stars hitting our shores in recent times, the shine of simply seeing her here in the land down under had worn off and Badu needed to give the audience something extra. She delivered when required, thanks to a standout moment when she paid tribute to legendary hip-hop group Outkast. As she joked that their recent return to touring was her payday, Badu launched into a moving rendition of her collaboration with Outkast from Aquemini, “Liberation.”
With numerous instances that left a lasting impression on hearts and minds, Badu and her stellar band’s blend of hip-hop infused soul beats gave a nod to soul and hip hop of the past while remaining honest and with one foot firmly in the future. Badu gave Sydney-siders the dose of soul they longed for to take them out of their mind, just in time.