D’Angelo Live At Brixton Academy: The Review!
In the midst of a packed train en route to Brixton, I eaves drop on the two girls conversating about D’Angelo: "He better not be s***," one girl said to her friend. "Is he fat now?" "Where has he been?" These are just a few questions that have been on the minds of many for almost 12 years. Rumours of a comeback were often scrapped after reports of arrests, alcoholism abuse and, of course, the leak of that awkward mug shot in 2010. So when PhatNights released tickets for his return a few months back, it was time to see if the soul crooner still had it in him.
Despite the concerns, arriving at the venue to witness the long and diverse queue outside defined just how much of an impact his music has had on us. After all, he was one of the driving forces of the neo-soul movement. Once inside, Kojo warmed up the packed crowd with his quirky banter before introducing Bluey Robinson, who opened up with a pretty amazing acoustic set of Stevie Wonder’s 'All I Do', followed by his own banger, ‘Show Girl’. After a lengthy old school hip-hop set from the DJ, the lights eventually dimmed and D’Angelo had finally arrived.
Dressed like a true rock star (complete with leather jacket and guitar), the soul singer stormed out strumming a melody, before asking the sold-out crowd to shout the title of the song after three. Following his request, "CHICKEN GREASE" roared through the venue, as he continued to deliver hits like 'Devil’s Pie' and a cover of Parliament’s 'I’ve Been Watching You'. Any doubts regarding the state of his vocal ability were eliminated after he let out that trademark high note. The man was here to remind us who he is.
Despite the problematic sound system of the Brixton Academy, the band – compiled of the great Jesse Johnson, Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave and Pino Palladino – managed to deliver powerful arrangements during intervals between his songs, most noticeably throughout a 20 minute set of ‘S**t, Damn, Motherf***er’. It was truly priceless. The highlight of the evening was the solo performance on his hoisted platform, as he lit up a cigarette and began to play the melody of old school classics on his piano, such as ‘Me And Those Dreamin’ Eyes Of Mine’, ‘Higher’ and the popular ‘How Does It Feel’. However, it was his 1995 hit, ‘Cruisin’, that got every audience member raising their hands singing back to him, to which he replied in closing, “I love you too.”
He eventually introduced new music to the crowd, with the tracks ‘Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Ain’t That Easy’ sounding very promising – quite reminiscent of his ‘Voodoo’ days, in fact. As a true performer, he thanked the crowd and walked off with everyone chanting his name to return. Frankly, no one was planning on leaving until they heard him perform ‘Brown Sugar’. He eventually ran back out on stage and performed an up-tempo version of the infamous tune, which received mixed opinions judging by people’s reaction, but still something most closed their eyes and bopped their heads to.
Overall, the concert was everything I asked for. D’Angelo has been away from the game for a number of years, yet to perform so effortlessly. It felt like he had never left.
Words: Ra’ed Poetical (@MrPoetical)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)