Erykah Badu opens Marymoor season with celebratory, energetic set
By Patrick MacDonald
Erykah Badu is a groove, a mood, an attitude. A sorceress as much as she is a singer, she summons a variety of spirits and assumes various personalities, creating a world all her own. She's spacey and earthy, weird and wise, silly and serious.
Badu draws you in with her slinky rhythms and intriguing half-sung, half-rapped lyrics, until you find yourself swaying and slow-grinding to the music, and smiling at her quirks and her unique personality.
At her performance Thursday night in Redmond, opening the Concerts at Marymoor's season in Marymoor Park, Barack Obama's historic triumph could be felt in the crowd even before she spoke about him toward the end of her two-hour set. There was a feeling of celebration in the air, an almost palpable feeling of pride.
Badu called Obama "a spirit of light and energy" and said "change is ahead." She was quick to add, however, that she doesn't want a change in politics as much as she wants "a change in the system."
But her out-there look and style -- she wore an enormous Afro wig --tended to mute the political messages in the songs from her new, politically oriented album, "New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War." But the big, excited, dance-oriented crowd seemed to care more for the rhythms than the words -- except maybe for "On & On," her No. 1 R&B hit from 1997, which everybody seemed to mouth along with her.
Backed by a seven-piece band (including a DJ) and four female background singers (and occasional dancers), she opened with "Amerykahn Promise," the first cut off the new CD. She followed with "The Healer" in which she sang/rapped that hip-hop is "bigger than religion" and "bigger than the government." The crowd heartily agreed.
The Roots set up the good feeling for the night with a much-too-short 30-minute opening set. Drummer/leader ?uestlove's playing was machine-gun sharp, while rapper Black Thought and the rest of the band were in peak form.
Nature smiled on the show. Dark clouds hung overhead, and it became cold and blustery, but it never rained. A rainbow even appeared shortly before Badu arrived onstage.