Those of us who waited 14 long years for D’Angelo’s return to Dallas were rewarded with a performance that will long be remembered ’round these parts. Those in attendance will tell their children about this show. They probably annoyed their co-workers all day with stories. They have filled their social media pages with photos from the show bearing the caption, “Life Changing!” I’m here to back up their version of events. I was there. I’ve done all of the above. And the show is everything you’ve heard and more.
Kicking off the show with “Ain’t That Easy,” the first track from 2014’s Black Messiah, D’Angelo took the stage armed with an electric guitar and his 10-piece band, The Vanguard. That’s right, 10-piece band: 1 drummer, 2 guitarists, 1 bassist, 3 backing singers, 1 sax, 1 trumpet, 1 keyboard player. D’Angelo, with a perma-smile, sauntered, strutted, and owned the stage in every way imaginable. Sometimes playing guitar, sometimes behind a keyboard, D’Angelo’s talents were on full display for the entirety of the 2-hour set.
Black Messiah tracks “Really Love” and “Betray My Heart,” were somehow even more smooth than the album versions. “The Charade” legitimately rocked and the infectious beats of “Sugah Daddy” had the entire venue bustin’ moves. The songs ran right into each other with rarely a break for between song banter. Tracks from the now classic Voodoo (“Left and Right,” “Chicken Grease”) and his debut album Brown Sugar fit perfectly alongside their Black Messiah counterparts, belying the fact they’re almost two decades younger than the latest material.
click to enlarge photos.
The Vanguard is an exceptional band. Featuring bassist Pino Palladino (whose played with everyone from the Who to Paul Simon to Nine Inch Nails), drummer Chris Dave (who played on Adele’s 21), guitarist Jesse Johnson (Janet Jackson, among others), and backing singer Kendra Foster (Parliament Funkadelic), the Vanguard perfectly replicates what you hear on the album and infuse it with an energy that takes it to another level. If you aren’t fixated on D’Angelo, there’s 10 other amazing musicians on stage that will draw your attention.
Perhaps a testament to D’Angelo’s socially conscious lyrics, the crowd that gathered at the Bomb Factory seemed evenly mixed among age, gender, and ethnicity. There seemed to be all walks of life in attendance. I think I even saw a couple of Amish dudes, though they could’ve just been regular bro’s rockin hipster beards and suspenders. Ladies were dressed to the nines and the gentlemen wore everything from suits and ties to t-shirts and jeans. At times during the show D’Angelo inspired couples to caress and grind, as well as provoked those who never dance to inexplicably dance their asses off.
You cannot miss D’Angelo and the Vanguard when they visit your town. It’s a performance that everyone should witness. Recent reports indicate that we won’t have to endure another 14 years before the next D’Angelo album. Hopefully, that means another tour will come sooner rather than later.
– J. Kevin Lynch
See more live D’Angelo photos on our Facebook album.