Review: Erykah Badu is very good at North Sea (and on time) (North Sea Jazz)

Soulquarians, you cannot trust them. In the late 1990s, a number of big names from soul, hip-hop and jazz, including D’Angelo, Common, Erykah Badu, Questlove from The Roots and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, formed a collective that would collaborate on a number of legendary albums. , such as Common’s Like Water For Chocolate and D’Angelo’s Voodoo† The neo-soul was invented by this club, with at the heart of the sound the vision of James Yancey, today known as the legendary and influential producer J Dilla. In his beats Dilla played with rhythms that didn’t fit, with strange tempo changes, with crazy breaks and with crazy samples. Privately, he was an introverted genius until his early death, but also an unreliable figure who did not keep to agreements. Did you have a date with Dilla? Then he usually didn’t show up.

Photography via North Sea Jazz

You can still see this attitude in the living former members of the Soulquarians to this day. For example, with a D’Angelo, who promised to be there for about fourteen years voodooto release a successor. At a Common, who would rather rake in millions with bad acting than with good music. But also with Erykah Badu. Just last weekend, she casually showed up half an hour late at Down The Rabbit Hole, and made a mess of the remaining playing time. Unreliable, those Soulquarians. You cannot make agreements with them. If they don’t feel like it, then so be it.

But if they really want to? Then that often leads to something great. Then you get D’Angelo in Paradiso in 2012. And then you get Erykah Badu at North Sea Jazz in 2022. Unlike last week in the Green Hills, Badu came to work tonight without reluctance. And although she struggles with the limited format of a festival set, she makes it especially clear tonight why in 2022, despite all those disappointments with easy, short shows in the past, so many people still come to listen to her neo-soul.

When Badu is on a roll, she is unbelievable. Then you get unforgettable moments, like her performance of Other Side Of The Game from tonight. Breathtakingly beautifully sung, both solo and in choir with her sultry voiced backing singers. With lashings so beautiful and inspired that you can’t help but curse. Because god damn, that was beautiful! But also Window Seat, performed with minimal instrumentation but maximum emotion, sounds amazing tonight. Badu’s band is in top form and the hall sound has been perfect all weekend. All those typical neo-soul elements – the oddly placed hi-hats, the slow playing tempo, all those Dilla-isms – can be heard for those who want to hear it.

Unfortunately, a festival set has limitations, especially for artists who can spend up to three hours on stage in their best moods. Badu tries to cram too much into her given time. She wastes about twenty minutes with Liberation, in which she extensively introduces her band, including individual moments in the spotlight. The manners that we can do in less woke times described as diva behavior are of course not missing. Badu very slowly taking off her hat. Badu very slowly taking off her golden jacket. Badu waving at a lamp on the ceiling after she beam me up has sung at the end of Window Seat† This kind moves belong to her, but not to a festival, where limited playing time can really be used better.

During these moments, you almost wonder if Badu even knows where she is. Her sobriety is regularly debated on social media. Luckily she’s clear about it tonight. ‘I’ve been coming here since 1997’, she begins halfway through the performance. And she goes on to list a list of soul and jazz legends she first met at North Sea. Like many other artists on the bill, Badu also has a special bond with this festival. Does that mean she’ll be back on stage on time next time? Well no! Not to be trusted, those Soulquarians. But tonight it was good. Very good, even.

Seen: July 9, 2022 at North Sea Jazz (8:45 PM, Nile). Read all our reports from North Sea Jazz here.

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