Performing to a sold out audience at the House of Blues in Orlando on March 14, Erykah’s message stood out more than the music. With every show that I attend, her vocal range gets better, her band becomes more innovative and her message reflects the changes that she is going through in her life. As Erykah walked out on stage, there were many noticeable differences compared to the Erykah Badu that we have come to know. No longer rocking the head wrap or afro, she came out with long braids extending past her mid-thigh and wore a long and layered white cloth that looked as if she sewed it together herself, looking as if she was a voodoo priestess. However, with that image set aside, Erykah set out on giving the people what they paid for, though more importantly educating the audience about lessons she has learned throughout her ever changing life.
Each set of songs that she performed were introduced with interpretive dances and were represented with chakras, which are energy centers for the body. As Erykah explained each chakra, she provided her own personal commentary. Even though many of her studio songs are about four to five minutes in length, Erykah and her band extended some of the songs past their original mark and fused some songs together to make everything seem continuous.
She opened the set with her current single “Back In The Day (Puff)” from her new EP titled Worldwide Underground, which is reminiscent of old-school funk music and celebrates the “highs” of life. She performed a slew of hits including “Danger,” “On & On,” “I Want You” and “Clever.” Performing more than half way into her set, Erykah stopped the music and decided to speak her mind.
Even though her message incorporated large amounts of profanity, it’s almost expected from Erykah because she is just real. She talked about the problems drugs have had in black communities and the current state of music, saying that the radio’s purpose is to “program” you, she made an interesting point when she noticed that since they play the same songs over and over listeners end up singing the song, even though they don’t even like the song. She also talked about how the media tries to induce fear in viewers by displaying constant negative images. Even though she wasn’t saying anything that hasn’t already been said, it was refreshing to see an artist take a stand. Badu’s outstanding message was when she told the audience to stop being in competition with others, but instead, be in competition with your last level.
As time was ending, Erykah couldn’t get through all seven chakras, ending only on the fifth one. She briefly explained the last two and ended the show with “Tyrone” to the crowd’s pleasure. The opening act for the show was the London based act -Floetry. Their set consisted of songs from their U.S. debut album Floetic. Having had their album since its release, I never gave the album a chance but, after being forced to listen to the music and lyrics, I definitely underestimated this group. With a full band to back them up, Floetry’s vocals were on point and they completely blew me away with their artistry. Be sure to catch these acts whenever they come to an area near you.