Tag Archives: variety playhouse

MATINAE MUSIC – Meshell Ndegeocello, Variety Playhouse, Atlanta


I purchased tickets January 2020, then the pandemic hit and shut down the world. Atlanta for the most part was not shut down, however live performances were cancelled or postponed, this show fell within the latter. Originally scheduled for March 2020, the performance was postponed twice when finally on September 2, 2021, I was able to use those tickets, along with proof of vaccination (or negative covid test) and with mask in place, I was able to experience in person, Meshell Ndegeocello.

Though described as a rapper and bassist which are at best limiting descriptors, I entered the show knowing I would experience much more than that given the magnitude of her talent. I did, but not in the way I expected. Her performance was subdued, with her band providing the instrumentation on drums, bass, guitar and keyboards. Her guitarist in particular was outstanding. Ndegeoceollo picked up the bass, twice, played keyboards a bit, but mostly gave the audience a slow burn of songs through the rhythm and tone of her voice whether it was singing or speaking.

She performed several songs from “Ventriloquism”, a release of covers performed in only the way that she could. She performed Night and Day (Al B Sure!), Waterfalls (TLC), Tender Love (Force MDs), and the standout of the songs performed from the album, I Wonder if I Take You Home (Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam), which was in short a groove. Her rendition of Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Nina Simone, The Animals) was also outstanding. But the *close your eyes and feel it* song of the night was Outside Your Door from her first album “Plantation Lullabies”. Her vocals, the band, the musicianship was faint-worthy and there were plenty of Woos! from the audience to affirm the sentiment.

When leaving the performance I felt disappointed that I did not get to experience her virtuosity on bass, but checked myself for a few reasons. First, we are in a pandemic still, regardless of what is displayed in the media, things are not “back to normal”. I should and will expect live musical performances to feel different as I believe we are all in a different space now. Secondly, Ndegeocello celebrated her 53rd birthday on August 29th, for which she displayed gratitude and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, she announced the recent transition of her mother. All of these factors I believe had an impact on this performance, which nevertheless was still exceptional.

Overall I loved the performance. The understated nature of it was much appreciated during this time of high emotion and divisiveness. Atlanta was just her third stop on this tour and as the tour continues, her performances may be completely different from what we experienced here. Whether subdued or in full out rock, jazz, funk and all the genres she’s fluent in mode, Meshell Ndegeocello in any form is highly recommended.

One more thing on the description of Ndegeocello as bassist and rapper. She is an artist, a complete musician who sings, speaks, exhorts, announces, whispers and demands but rap, she does not.

Thanks SS for joining me.

Fuzzy photos: MsThorns

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His Majesty Raphael Saadiq

Raphael Saadiq, Variety Playhouse, Atlanta GA

March 28, 2009

The moment I heard that he would be in Atlanta it wasn't a question. I bought two tickets with no concern who the second would be for. I had to be there and I'm so glad that me and my BFF from back home were able to be in his presence. First things first.

The show opened with a trio (plus drummer) called Tha Boogie. The music, fresh, their energy high octane, the sound I  would call the funky future. I quite enjoyed the set, because they aren't playing what you hear on the radio (if you listen to such things). You can check them out on their Myspace. Now for the main event.
The lights dropped, the band, then the two back-ups then Saadiq, in his 60's David Ruffin-ish glory. Let me first gush, he looked fantastic, but as good as he looked, the performance was the star. The tour is in support of his most recent output, The Way I See It. The set included The Way See It nearly in its entirety, with a standout extended performance of Big Easy, inspired by post-Katrina New Orleans. The band killed this one, in the sense that the sound put you right down in the heart of Big Easy. The performance was also sprinkled with hits from Tony Toni Tone, including Lay Your Head on My Pillow, Anniversary, Lucy Pearl I Wanna Dance Tonight and cuts from his solo debut  Instant Vintage, You Should Be Here, Still Ray and closed out the show post encore with an extended play of Skyy Can You Feel Me. 
The performance from the opening act to the close of Saadiq's set was fantastic. The energy, was high throughout, his female backup singer an absolute spitfire and his keyboardist, surprised every when he started BLOWING out of the blue on Can you Feel Me. What I would have liked to see more of? Energy from the crowd. As a middle age person, who's first concert was Parliament/Funkadelic and is used to dancing for an entire show (which I did) I was disappointed at how some of the crowd on the floor were barely bobbing their heads. What I would like to have heard more of? Music. Most curious thing about the show? Not really curious but Saadiq is wildly averse to cameras during the performance. I had my BFF working one for me (He's tall) we got our shots and put it away out of respect, but the crowd on the floor was soooo focused on getting the money shot, I'm not so sure they enjoyed the show. Anytime the cameras were shooting, Saadiq was dancing, moving and spinning in the other direction. He even called out (in a very nice way) one particular photog offender. The beauty of the end? After he and his band left it all on the floor. Saadiq shook hands, signed autographs and posed for phone pictures.
In all, this continues a string of great performances that I've witnessed at Variety Playhouse. Saadiq et all, held it down. If he comes through your town (he's heading to Europe now), put your money down on some tickets. Just make sure you put your dancing shoes on and your cameras down.

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