When Erykah Badu met the faces of a completely impatient and frustrated crowd on Thursday evening, her presence in a humid Hammersmith Apollo brought the atmosphere to a placid yet equally excitable mood before even opening her mouth; and in true style the world proclaimed queen of neo-soul had on one of her signature hats, the heavily layered Dallas dream then began to push her music forward as if she had just released all of it.
Anyone who knows her music knows the woman doesn’t need a campaign; celebrated for her appearances in London whether promoting a release or not. She once said, ‘I shine on the stage’, and that is exactly what she proceeded to do.
Opening with a snippet from her 2015 mixtape, ‘But you caint use my phone’. Her collaboration, ‘Hello’ with Andre 3000 almost acted as an introduction for what was to come during her show. Her ridiculous back catalogue of releases since she debuted with ‘Baduizm’ 20 years ago has bestowed her with an incredible reputation as one of the forewomen of R&B and neo-soul, and in comparison to a lot of modern artists, her name will never be waivered when it comes to live performances.
She then stepped back in time to 1997 and flowed into her debut track, the hypnotic ‘On & On’, in a celebration of the 20 year anniversary of Baduizm. Striking and beautiful, she stood before the crowd and burned through her extensive collection of releases, her personal expression coming through more than you could have imagined. She continued to tease more of her debut album with the upbeat and snappy tone to ‘Apple Tree’, before rolling through snippets of her successive releases. ‘Time’s a wastin’, a poignant, soulful number from her sophomore album ‘Mama’s Gun’ was quickly turned into snappy renditions of ‘Back in the day’ and ‘Love of My life (An Ode To Hip Hop)’. Her seemingly perfectly arranged structures and melodies act more as a foundation in a live setting, allowing her voice to travel into wonderful tangents and mutations of her verses before leading into the beginning of her next track.
The latter segment of the show saw Erykah relay an important history lesson, she recounted the significance of the documentary, ‘The Fourth world war’, a critically acclaimed documentary about the struggles of the poor, the real meaning of occupation, and the idea which spawned her incredible record, ‘New Amerykah Part one (4th World War). She then continued to paint a narrative with her words on the track ‘Soldier’, now with an even more powerful message; her voice took ownership of every single note, her often subtle tone climbing up to lengthy falsettos, each met with huge applause from the crowd. Time appeared to be running out quickly as the show was brought to a close, even with less time than the audience would have hoped, the show was everything you would have liked, despite wanting a little more.