Gig Reviews

D’Angelo – Sydney Opera House, 21/03/16

It would be much more succinct and accurate to just post this gif of a sperm impregnating an egg than it would be for me to write the 400-500 words that are about to follow.

After all, while I sit here typing in a slightly giddy, ear-ringing daze, there are more than a few couples I was sitting alongside at this evening’s D’Angelo show that are definitely in the act of making soul music inspired babies.

This show was dripping in sexuality and sensuality. And no, not in a creepy, sleazy, clichéd way – this was a show drenched in love. In affection. In appreciation. In intimacy.

Door call was at 8pm, but for an hour and a half we waited – just like we waited for a decade and a half between albums – but there wasn’t the tension in the air one might experience at a Madonna concert. Instead the mood was sassy, fun, cheeky. While opener Captain Franco DJ’d a mix of r’n’b and hip hop beats, people danced in the aisles and between the seats. Friends waved to each other from across the room. Smile met smile as we all had just as much fun as about any crowd waiting for an artist / making desperate last minute trips to the bathroom/bar before a show on stage could.

Eventually the light’s descended and from the blackness emerged the hulking, shadowy figure of the soul king himself. Puffed up with a raven feather vest that wouldn’t look out of place on a John Snow costume, a doo rag tied across the side of his head and a sleek wide brimmed hat shadowing his face, there was an air of elegance and power in the way he stood at the microphone. But despite his intimidating costume there was an effervescent glowing joy ringing from D’Angelo’s face as his truly inimitable voice thundered through the microphone and reverberated around those hallowed walls. Not a single person sat for the entire show. Everyone was up dancing, singing, waving, clapping and grooving.

While his band of brothers in The Vanguard kept pace around him, D’Angelo marched up and down the stage – sometimes singing into a mic, others shredding on a sparkling guitar that looked like it was stolen from a wizard – the notes crashing through Marshall stacks on a stage that was as reminiscent of a metal showcase as it was an r’n’b session.

And all the while he waltzed through hits with ease, opening with Devil’s Pie, busting through some covers of Funkadelic’s Red Hot Mama and Roberta Flack’s Feel Like Makin’ Love before bringing it back round with Really Love’s gorgeous flamenco guitar and mesmerising beat perfectly floating his buzzing falsetto. I remember seeing him perform that track for the first time on SNL early last year, when he looked nervous for his return to the spotlight. Over a year later and it’s like he’s never left the stage once.

He reminded us of the power of the lyricism on Black Messiah as well, calling us to raise our fists for the entirety of The Charade in solidarity with those suffering across the world. He turned the lovin’ back on straight away though with Brown Sugar, burned through a medley of Back To The Future (I & II) before closing out with another cover in Prince’s She’s Always In My Hair.

Then, in an easily expected move that made it in no way less breath-taking, played a stunning solo piano version of Untitled (How Does It Feel) for an encore that sent shivers into the loins of every person in the theatre, before finishing out the night with another medley of Left & Right and Chicken Grease.

And the whole time D’Angelo danced and sang and loved. He grabbed hands, fist bumped, blew kisses, whispered “I love you” – and none of it felt pretentious or show-boaty. You genuinely felt the love in the room – love for the music, love for the artist, love for the people.

I look forward to the result of said love gracing us with a new generation of soul fans in nine months time.

D’Angelo plays Bluesfest 2016, this weekend in Byron Bay.

Photos by Yael Stempler

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