Before Erykah Badu even stepped on stage at the Joint last Wednesday, a DJ played groundbreaking hip-hop and R&B from Mos Def, OutKast, Nikka Costa, and India.Arie. From the start, the ear was on the future of music, not just hip-hop and R&B; everybody knew that Miss Badu helped to set off the explosion of Nu Soul sisters.
Given the rescheduled nature of the show (the initially-slotted March 14 show was postponed) and the late start time, there were no opening acts. It was the last date of the tour, which meant the crowd was probably expecting-- and definitely got-- a treat: an almost complete performance of Badu's latest LP, Mama's Gun, along with some favorites from her critically acclaimed debut, Baduizm.
Badu herself made a very dramatic entrance, wearing her trademark head wrap-- tied together with a leather strap-- a ripped up off-white cloth jacket, and shaggy bag tied in the front with leather straps. With incense in her mouth like a long cigarette, she glided up to the mic and the table next to it-- complete with candle she lighted, and thermos of tea she opened like perfoming a sacred ritual.
The Joint itself was packed, the standing-room-only area behind the seats three to four people deep, with more lined up against the walls. But that didn't stop anyone from movin' their thangs as she sang favorites like "Cleva," "Green Eyes," "Next Lifetime," sneaking in a verse or two of "On and On," and even pulling out a red laser to point at the crowd in a very techie "Time's a Wastin'."
As the evening progessed, the head wrap came off to show her almost-bald and beautiful head, and the ripped up clothes and shaggy skirt came off to reveal a simple black dress that she easily danced in onstage; it was just Badu and her natural charisma, something made more poignant when the nine-piece band played a solo and she started to cry. And that's what Badu's all about-- after all the Billie Holliday comparisons, after all the gossip about her and former love Dre of OutKast, after all the head wraps, she's still carrying the torch for all the sisters.