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August 9, 2010

Concert review: Erykah Badu, the Roots & Chuck Brown at Spirit Fest

chuck brown

Sun correspondent Evan Haga was at Merriweather Post Pavilion for Spirit Fest Saturday. Here are his ruminations from the show:

Chuck Brown

Like the leader of any world-class funk band, Chuck Brown knows not to neglect the groove, even for a second. The go-go beats began and they didn't quit until set's end, and in between was an interpolated regional hit parade — "Go-Go Swing" and "Bustin' Loose" cropped up, obviously — from a jazzman who is also the ambassador for one of the most singular rhythms on the planet.

The sound on the lawn was a shame, though: The District was well represented, as cries of "Wind me up, Chuck!" proved, but the mix beyond the seats was spotty and soft. I could hardly hear Brown's warm-toned, Grant Green-styled guitar lines ...

the rootsThe Roots

The Roots are, according to an announcer on Saturday who shall-go-unnamed, currently working with late-night-TV host Jimmy Kimmel. Ouch. Once tireless road warriors who toured so much it was easy to take them for granted, the Roots have, since March of 2009, had a steady gig on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," making even festival dates like this one something to savor.

Black Thought is a force and, with ?uestlove and Captain Kirk Douglas — rap's resident guitar hero — the Roots bolstered their reputation as hip-hop's greatest live band. One thing felt like a missed opportunity, though I'm sure the logistics presented a challenge: Douglas sang the chorus on "You Got Me," a part famously recorded by Erykah Badu, who was slated to go on next.

erykah baduErykah Badu

Like Sly Stone before her, Badu has traded the Afro in for a bleached-blonde mohawk. It was impressive, to be sure, but not as flooring as this hour-long set, which began late but thankfully plowed through Merriweather's 11 p.m. curfew.

Badu's ace band set the table by grooving like Herbie Hancock's Headhunters circa 1974, heightening the anticipation before the empress arrived to grab the reins. She started out slow and spacey but eventually the vamps became robust and hypnotic; hits like "Love of My Life" were grand, but the real magic was off the cuff. Whether tapping out beats on a drum machine or messing around on Whodini’s "Friends" with surprise guest (and former beau) Common, her charisma was arresting.

A soul queen but also a hip-hop kid, Badu spit vintage gansta-rap lyrics in a way that was deft but also hilarious, evoking a bawdy blues singer spinning off double entendres. Somehow, the explicit lyrics didn't seem so explicit.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Colby Ware)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:14 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Concert reviews


What about a review of the Arcade Fire/Spoon concert?

Joe -- We ain't got one of those.

We did Keane, Spirit Fest and we're doing Black Eyed Peas tonight.

My comrades over at the WaPo did a good Arcade Fire review though. Dig it:

fair enough thanks for the heads up!

No talk of B.O.B's "Wasssssuuupppp Boston"? Or of Badu toying him in her set about it?

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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