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A Goddess At Ease: Erykah Badu At the Hollywood Bowl

A Goddess At Ease: Erykah Badu At the Hollywood Bowl

(This story was published on March 29, 2022 but is about a Badu concert held on October 21, 2021.)

Erykah Badu floored in her performance at the Hollywood Bowl on Thursday.  Her performance complemented the timelessness of the venue itself, with modern lyrical sensibilities wrapped up in clear-as-crystal sounds from the ‘70s to the primal.  It felt liberating to hear such hits as “Window Seat” and “Time’s a Wastin’” delivered in such an intimate capacity, given that I saw the concert from the nosebleed section.  The Hollywood Bowl’s storied nature in an instant became Badu’s equal–her place to invite the audience to, as a special guest, an intimate friend.  But to consider only the songs I heard, and the stage itself, would be a disservice to the performer.

Two drummers began the proceedings, setting the scene for a goddess to appear.  It was one of the best intros for a concert I have ever witnessed–with a seamless transition into a jam reminiscent of radio fodder from 50 years ago.  It was then that She entered, and I feel that the She is necessary to describe Ms. Badu.  The connection I felt to her was instant, even though She appeared as a finely-dressed matchstick to me–I was under the performative spell of someone not of this world.

Her music flowed with smooth, natural banter that belied the ethereal beauty She delivered otherwise.  The balance between the two would have been laughable had any other artist attempted it.  But, for Badu, it worked.  She is goddess, mother, friend, teacher, sister, from song to song shuffling her guise. “Half the motherf—–s ain’t ready,” we heard at one point.  This one hurt: “People in the back, the f— you lookin’ at?” It made me wonder–are we worthy?  These cheapskates in the same vicinity as someone as commanding as She?

That’s not to say that we should put Badu on a spotless pedestal.  It nagged in the back of my mind that she last released an album over a decade ago.  I wondered why she was out here rather than in there–there being the studio, making her sixth studio album in 24 years.  This show missed the spark of a new idea hitting the crowd, a gasoline eager for fresh musical romances.

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Even though this show was not the most purposeful, it cemented a truth–that Badu is gracefully leading her career, not burning out on a huge back catalog that inevitably has stinkers.  Her emphasis on quality over quantity is admirable, but again–I would have loved to have heard her riding this performance on a new idea.   

The parting message She left us with was to “leave other people’s b—–s alone!” How apt–it is a mantra that She has repeated at other shows on this tour and, again, I found it a great string of words.  Focus on your b—-, your lover, your other half, your creative output.  It declared a trip back to the real world with a new vigor concerning the self and its belongings.  A self as radiant and all-powerful as Erykah Badu was on Thursday night.

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