Headed along to D’Angelo last night I was excited to check out the musician touted as the “RnB Jesus” – how could someone with that reputation and three fantastic albums under his belt disappoint? Well unfortunately I was left feeling a little underwhelmed.
When D’Angelo finally decided to show up on stage, 80 minutes after he was supposed to, the crowd was already bored. From there it was going to take a lot to amp them up and the Grammy winner gave it a good crack. He was contagious in his energy and despite feeling quite bitter by this stage as my feet were sore, I got sucked in by him and found myself grooving away with the rest of the bopping, hip-shaking audience to Devil’s Pie.
There’s no denying this guy can sing and play, his Marvin Gaye like falsetto is captivating and when the layers of music were stripped back his voice stood up alone. In fact, the problem for me was that often he and the fantastic backing singers voices were a little lost in a mess of sound which had me thinking it was more of a rock concert. Add to that the TSB Bank Arena’s echoing acoustics and it made it hard to decipher quite what was happening at times.
The highlights came in the more soul-style tracks like 1995 classic Brown Sugar and Really Love from the 2014 Black Messiah album. In these songs D’Angelo and his impressive band The Vanguard were slick, particularly guitarist Isaiah Sharkey who played a beautiful acoustic solo. During The Charade, a song written in the wake of the events in Ferguson, we were asked to raise our fists in the air to fight for equality. It felt a little rehearsed and awkward and I think that affected the performance of the song which got a little dull after a minute or so.
He finished with an energetic Chicken Grease which saw him grooving around the stage and flicking his microphone about like a true funk superstar. A captivating encore of Untitled (How Does It Feel) gave us the first spine tingle of the night as D’Angelo took to the piano solo and sang with a chilling quality. The song had a climactic finish as the band built the sound up underneath him and he belted out some impressive notes. Despite playing a short set of just an hour, he should have finished here, it was clear no song could top that.
D’Angelo is no doubt a talented musician and his style on stage is infectious, but my memories of last night’s show are unfortunately dominated by the low, instead of the high points.