As a Brixtonite, wild horses would have struggled to keep me away from the O2 Academy Brixton on Sunday evening for the only UK date on Erykah Badu’s current Kings & Queens tour. ARISE caught up with her last year at Madison Square Garden, where she was supporting Maxwell and seemed to be in serious spirits. This time around, Badu was very much in her own moment. With no one else on the line-up, this show was strictly for the heads and the 4,000-plus people present were there to indulge her every whim.
She sauntered on stage wearing a ten-gallon hat and poncho (later peeled off to reveal Heidi plaits, Wonder Woman-style wrist cuffs, a white vest dripping with gold chains and black sequined pantaloons) and proceeded to take her fans on a languid joy ride around her back catalogue. From 2000’s Kiss Me On The Neck and 2008’s Me, right through to the 2010 single Window Seat (of scandalous video fame), her performance was assured, comfortable and satisfying.
The singer was also in a cheeky mood. She repeatedly teased the audience with threats to wind up the gig early and berated them for enjoying the “cussing” on her cover of NWA’s Gangsta Gangsta. During one interlude she spanked her backside in time to the retro noises emanating from her keyboard and then beseeched the drummer to synchronise his percussive rhythms to the thrusts of her sparkling hips.
Although there was no doubt who the star of the show was, Badu rounded it off by allowing her 11-strong band to take centre stage for a rendition of Wang Dang Doodle by blues legend Koko Taylor. Keisha Jackson (daughter of Millie) on backing vocals, Thundercat on bass and Badu’s “little brother” on bongos all enjoyed solos but her male backing singer Durand Bernarr,who Badu “found on YouTube” went one step further by prostrating himself on the floor in front of Badu and serenading her platform boots with high pitched screams.
There were few in the venue who wouldn’t have sold their (neo) souls to swap places with him in that moment, but settled for creating a Twitter storm following the gig instead. This was one crowd with whom Badu is always trending, and deservedly so.
Helen Jennings | ARISE Magazine, editor