Thursday, April 1, 2010

Erykah Badu - the "secret" show at the El Rey 3/30/10

On Monday I found out about Erykah Badu's "secret" show from the El Rey's Twitter feed, and I immediately bought tickets, thinking that it would sell out immediately.  Even though I'm not familiar with all her output, I really enjoyed her last album, 2008's New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, and I had a feeling this show would be, at the very least, interesting.

The show was supposed to start at 9, but based on Rob Harvilla's tweets during her NY secret show (see link below), I figured we should probably show up at 10.  But then I got scared that maybe we'd miss something, so we arrived around 9:30.  When we got there, I was a bit surprised to find that they were selling tickets at the door.  I was comforted by the fact that I at least put some money in Ticketmaster's pockets.

We walked into the El Rey with a DJ spinning and some crazy videos playing in the background - Erykah driving, then B-movie clips (reminded me of the Largo's Little Room), then more driving, then a photo shoot, then more movie, etc.  And then, we waited. 

Then another DJ spinning.  More waiting.  Then camera flashes started going off like mad in the middle of the crowd near the front of the stage, and we wondered if a celebrity had been spotted.  And one had - the woman of the hour.  She walked from there towards the mixing boards in the back, people taking pictures, her posing for some.  She sat at the mixing board for a good 20 minutes, another DJ started spinning, and then she eventually walked backstage, people still taking pictures.

Eventually her controversial "Window Seat" video started playing on the screens, though the music wasn't - it was still the DJ.  For the last 30 minutes or so, roadies and band members seemed busy on the stage, and finally, around 11:30, Erykah came out. 

At this point I should mention she had some serious Rick James/Venus Williams beaded braids going on, hair hanging down past her butt, wearing a trenchcoat and jeans.  The crowd went nuts, even though we had just seen her in the audience, but was finally time.

She played a couple of songs I knew off of 4th World War, what must have been some older songs based on the crowd's reaction, and of course songs off the new album.  We eventually had to bail around 12:30, so we didn't get to hear "Window Seat," but the night and the wait were worth it.  She has a voice and a presence that really can't be described, and her music is so appealing - and also potentially polarizing - because it's so eclectic.  Some songs are like scat jazz, some pure R&B, psychedelia, reggae - everything is in there.  Even if you've never even heard of Erykah Badu, go see her (but show up late).  You won't be disappointed.

Excellent album review and NY secret show review from Rob Harvilla at the Village Voice

Feature at Pitchfork about what Erykah was listening to at certain ages in her life

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