The seductive R&B star, along with fellow musicians Macy Gray, Jill Scott and Zap Mama, served up five hours of sultry, come-hither jams to a 15,000-plus capacity crowd at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan, Wednesday.
“Ladies, women, bitches, hos, hoochie mamas,” Gray addressed the crowd, “we’re here to celebrate one of the most magnificent, most miraculous, things ever created. We want to celebrate the dick!” With many male audience members covering their faces, Gray then led the women in the house in a chant of, “Dick, dick, dick…”
Unrestrained sexuality was the theme of the festival, meant to serve as a test for a possible major tour next summer, according to promoters. The stage set was simple – with orange curtains hanging from the rafters – allowing the music and the oft-bawdy banter to be the focus.
Badu’s performance was received as salvation by the audience, who raised their arms as she ran through the basics of many religions. She then encouraged the audience members to scream their names. “You have just witnessed the God in you.”
Her two-hour show was centered around her ten-piece band, dressed as if it stepped out of a the Cotton Club. Badu slowly removed her headwrap to reveal her baldness, and her red halter dress, which was layered over an identical black number and silver sparkling platform boots. Her impeccable vocals wrapped around jazz-influenced numbers like “In Love With You,” “Booty,” “Sometimes” and “Certainly.”
Each of the acts offered striking entrances. Gray’s was the most simple yet effective: She sang a stripped-down, sing-along version of “I Try,” accompanied only by her guitarist, former Red Hot Chili Peppers member Arik Marshall.
“I want to see some asses shaking,” Gray began. She and her thirteen-piece band then played favorites like “Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak” and “I Can’t Wait to Meetchu,” as well “Give Me All Your Lovin’ or I Will Kill You” and “Hey Young World II” from her forthcoming album, The Id. She stopped the band halfway through the latter tune, saying, “We just rehearsed that yesterday. We just trying it out.”
Scott kept the crowd on its feet at the height of the ninety-nine-degree heat that kept surrounding communities without power. Dressed in an orange dress and red head wrap, Scott giggled and waved with each standing ovation.
“It’s been officially a year since the album [Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1] came out,” she said. “So far, so good.”
She won over the audience with her strong-female stance, especially during her hit “Gettin’ in the Way.” Scott stopped the music mid-song to battle with an imaginary version of its subject: an ex-girlfriend of a current love. She pulled off her earrings and clinched her fists as her three back-up singers ran to restrain her. The scene drew ravenous applause, and then Scott shared a story about a woman who once asked her if the song meant she advocated violence. She said she did not, but added, “Sometimes, for principal, you gotta whoop a little ass.”
The words she spoke to close her set best summed up the evening: “Its sista power up in here… absolutely!”