Photo by Arnaud Mbaki, courtesy of the Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre recently linked up with Erykah Badu to provide 2 electric nights of black excellence on the 5th and 6th of November, in celebration of the artist's debut album Baduizm on its 25th anniversary. The influence this album holds, not only in Erykah’s career, but in the evolution of neo-soul and R&B music, is unparalleled. It is seen as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time for these genres, and I can only vehemently agree. Badu’s creativity is prominent in her music, and that creativity and freshness transferred over beautifully to this series of live performances.
The Saturday show opened with a performance from the opening act, muva of Earth, who then brought on Angel SEKA to form their collective, DIVINEANGEL. They perfectly encompassed Erykah’s spirit in their own unique and fresh way, the two of them donning beautiful outfits and intricate hairstyles. Listening to them sing was the equivalent of a spiritual experience, as they performed their debut single ‘OBiNRiN'. muva of Earth warmed up the crowd in the most fitting way possible, performing enlightening and soulful songs such as ‘Affirmation’, ‘DiVine Ascension’ and ‘High’.
The atmosphere in the centre was beautiful as the speakers announced: "Erykah will be joining us as soon as possible"; the auditorium itself seemed to sway with excitement. We were led by her 9-piece band who readied us all for Erykah’s arrival. She arrived (fashionably late) onto the stage donning her iconic ‘Holy Mountain’ hat, a fur jacket and fur leg warmers; overall, she looked ready to battle Britain’s winter. Despite Erykah seeming ready to face the cold, the room felt hot with excitement, the audience's anticipation about to boil over.
She gave us so much more than we bargained for and by the second song, the whole auditorium was stood up singing and dancing. She seemed to reinvent Baduizm, giving us contemporary versions of certified classics. She didn’t only perform favourites such as ‘On & On’, ‘Appletree’, and ‘Next Lifetime’; she also took the time to perform a beautiful 10-minute version of ‘Window Seat’ from her 2010 album, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of The Ankh, as well as songs like ‘Mama’s Gun’ and ‘Green Eyes’ from Mama’s Gun, the highly appraised successor to Baduizm.
This show was not just a tribute to Baduizm, it was a tribute to Badu's amazing discography as a whole, to neo-soul and R&B, to creativity and innovation, and to everything else Erykah Badu stands for. It was a stunning performance vocally, but when coupled with the amazing lightwork, her charismatic background singers and her incredibly talented band, it was truly something unforgettable. The Southbank Centre and Erykah perfectly curated this show, from the opening act to the DJs, to the lighting and sound design. It was an amazing way to celebrate Baduizm, perfectly rounded off with her wise last words to "believe in yourself, and believe that every day will be bright". With a motto like that, it's no wonder she's become, and continues to be, one of the music world's brightest stars.
To keep up with the Southbank Centre's other upcoming events, be sure to visit their website.
Edited by Talia Andrea, Music Editor