D’Angelo Live In Australia – One, Two, Three, Four

After experiencing the first three of D’Angelo’s four incredible Australian shows, I was mysteriously left feeling less than fully satisfied. It didn’t make sense when D’Angelo and The mini Vanguard touring with him had just delivered flawless, stunning performances to Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay Bluesfest audiences.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

#1 – Melbourne’s Palais Theatre

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

# 2 – Sydney Opera House

D'Angelo live concert - Bluesfest 2016

# 3 – Byron Bay Bluesfest

 

 

 

 

 

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D’Angelo, Every Time

D’Angelo’s phenomenal vocal range and delivery as well as his skills on piano and guitar, are unquestionable. They are simply and absolutely sublime to hear live – every time.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

So is Michael “D’Angelo” Archer’s joyful high energy and super-smooth, confident engagement with the crowd. Man or woman, even if you only care about the sounds of music, who out there wouldn’t blush if D’angelo looked you in the eye and pointed at you while ever-so-naturally singing “I feel like makin’ love to you” in his voice from on high?

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

At all his Australian shows D’Angelo undoubtedly demonstrated he’s a musician, artist and performer of equal wonder to the legendary R&B, funk and soul artists who influenced and shaped him. Some of them he payed tribute to in his sets (“She’s Always In My Hair” by Prince, “Red Hot Mama” by Funkadelic and “Brent Fischer Interlude” by Black Messiah collaborator Brent Fischer). D’Angelo does all those artists and their music justice, and then some. And how many contemporary artists can we say that about in 2016?

D'Angelo live concert Australia 2016

No I don’t think my slight and mysterious dissatisfaction was about D’Angelo’s performances. They made me smile from ear to ear in awe.

The [mini] Vanguard 

Did I miss hearing the distinctive bass sounds of Pino Palladino, the live horns and the gorgeous complementary female vocals of Kendra Foster or Joi Gilliam usually heard with The Vanguard? Sure I did. But their absence alone wasn’t leaving me with that feeling.

Because technically the seven insanely-skilled musicians on stage with D’Angelo played and sang almost flawlessly. Although he appeared nervous or daunted at times, Pino’s son Rocco Palladino did an admirable job on bass. And any opportunity to hear Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums, Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey on guitars, Bobby Ray Sparks on keys/samples or Jermaine Holmes and Charles “Red” Middleton on background vocals…is a blessed one I would gleefully take any time. They all killed it. And I appreciated hearing every note they played and sang on Australian stages.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

Chris Dave (l) – Isaiah Sharkey (m)

Jesse Johnson - D'Angelo & The Vanguard 2016

Jesse Johnson

Rocco Palladino with The Vanguard- Bluesfest 2016

Rocco Palladino

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

Bobby Sparks (r)

Jermaine Holmes - D'Angelo concert 2016

Jermaine Holmes

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

Red Middleton (l) – Chris Dave (m) – Isaiah Sharkey (r)

Looking Back

Was it the group’s set-list choices that left me wanting more? Maybe a little. In my world every song they played is a “Beloved Forever-After Song”. It’s true that all were arranged and delivered in funked-up, rocked-out, soulful brilliance. And hearing each one made me happy.

But a set made up of “Brown Sugar”; three/four jams on other artists’ songs, four/five songs from Voodoo (“Devil’s Pie”“Chicken Grease”“Untitled (How Does It Feel)”“Left & Right”, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”); and only three from Black Messiah (“The Charade”“Really Love”“Back To The Future”/ “Sugah Daddy” at Bluesfest)…curiously felt like a look back to the distant (albeit magnificent) past.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

Objectively the set choice might’ve been the safe bet when playing to Australian audiences made up of admirers from different D’Angelo eras. But for disciples who love every song he and his collaborators ever created, but appreciate the group’s artistry even more since the release of Black Messiah; and for newer disciples (including many young musicians there) because of Black Messiah, only hearing a small part of that album felt strange. Especially after they spent the past year promoting it through North America and Europe on The Second Coming Tour.

DAngelo - Black Messiah (2014)

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“Aint That Easy” – Black Messiah (2014)

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“The Show”

Maybe my mysterious feeling was about being delivered a “show”. I guess when you reach the professional playing levels D’Angelo And The Vanguard have, with their intense tour schedule performing show after show in different cities, having a pre-formulated, programmed “show” for perfect and tight execution on cue by a lot of musicians and crew might be more necessary, or pragmatic, or safer.

But the flip-side to that is a loss of organic spontaneity – musically and otherwise. As an audience member I still crave that spontaneity no matter how incredible the show is. No matter how amusing it might be to see D’Angelo mimic kissing a woman “way down there”; or how much I like seeing he, Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey come together with their guitars in those moments. It makes me wonder if creative artists performing on stage also crave it at some point on their touring road.

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

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Fourth, Final, Full Satisfaction

Whatever the mysterious, probably unreasonable thing that left me feeling not-quite-full after three incredible D’Angelo shows, it disappeared and mattered not once the the fourth and final Australian show happened on Saturday night at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016.

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

# 4 – Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

Finally and inexplicably all seemed as it naturally should be at a D’Angelo gig. With everyone seemingly vibin’ on the experience, together. The set-list was nearly the same but as a Byron Bay sider might say: there was some indescribably-different type of musical and energetic magic that happened at Saturday’s closing show…leaving peeps there connected, loved-up and on high. It was created collectively by everyone there of course, hopefully felt by them too.

D'Angelo live concert - Bluesfest 2016

Everyone at Melbourne, Sydney and Bluesfest shows (and others around the world) had their very own experience of D’Angelo And The Vanguard live. Maybe it was nothing at all like mine. Surely it was special.

Leave a comment if you want to share yours – we wanna hear it!

D'Angelo live concert Australia 2016

Visit Beaver on the Beats on Facebook for more photos from these & other D’Angelo And The Vanguard shows; click a link for individual shows: London Roundhouse (2015) –  Melbourne Soulfest 2014 Brisbane Soulfest 2014; and check back here soon for Byron Bay Bluesfest’s dream main stage line-up with Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington & West Coast Get Down and Hiatus Kaiyote.

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D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Then & Now – Night & Day

The difference between D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s concert at London’s Roundhouse on Monday night and the last concert of theirs I heard is like Night and Day.

The last was nine months ago when they performed at Soulfest 2014– “Australia’s first annual neo-soul, hip hop and jazz festival”. At that time and for the previous decade, live performances by D’Angelo – or any news of D’Angelo – were rare, almost non-existent. We had no idea then that Black Messiah and the ‘Second Coming’ of D’Angelo were imminent.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

I raved about the seemingly phenomenal goodness of those Australian shows. But with hindsight and the experience of D’Angelo and The Vanguard in London this week I see things a little differently.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at London Roundhouse

Sure the 2014 shows were magnificent – but really, that was for the rare opportunity to experience the incredible musicianship of each and every one of those long-beloved funk and soul artists on stage performing their craft live. The reclusive D’Angelo first and foremost of course – joined (amongst the rest of The Vanguard) by Jesse Johnson, Pino Palladino and Kendra Foster.

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But what I saw clearly in London this week when D’Angelo & The Vanguard graced the stage and started playing (albeit an excruciating 90+ minutes late due to flight delays), is the epic transformation that’s taken place for them since Soulfest. With the release of Black Messiah, considered a wondrous musical gift by, well, everyone who knows anything 🙂 , and 30+ live shows later, D’Angelo & The Vanguard are now a different, much much stronger beast than ever before.

For starters the 11-piece group now includes horns, glorious horns care of Keyon Harrold and Kenneth Whalum III. And as of this month veteran soul diva and long-time friend of D’Angelo, Joi Gilliam brings her talents to The Vanguard posse, taking the place of Kendra Foster on back-up vocals.

Joi Gilliam - D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Joi Gilliam

But above and beyond that, the greatest transformations are the profound connectivity and tightness of the group evident in every sound and movement made; and the visible changes in their leader D’Angelo.

Gone is the timid, slightly nervous, restrained D’Angelo I saw on Soulfest stages reacquainting himself with performing to the world – and avoiding ‘Brown Sugar’. Enter D’Angelo on the Roundhouse stage – completely and utterly comfortable, confident and happy in his human and musical skin, doing what he loves to do and what (it seems) he was naturally born to do before the vultures of the music industry, the press (and the public too) sent him to face his demons and retreat for way too long: to bring absolute joy to the people of the world through music.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Both the Roundhouse and Soulfest shows ended with ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’ – and the opportunity for all (D’Angelo too from behind his piano) to hear and appreciate the individual sound of each player and vocalist in turn, and acknowledge their contribution to the show before leaving the stage. Of course I wanted them to stay and play on and on, and on some more.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

On my way out of the Roundhouse my smile got even wider after hearing a guy tell his friend his only disappointment about the show was that D’Angelo played some of his old songs [only two I think – ’Brown Sugar’ and ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’] instead of more of Black Messiah (we did get ‘Sugah Daddy’ ‘Ain’t That Easy’, ‘Really Love’, ‘Betray My Heart’ and ‘The Charade’). Turn back the clock to Soulfest when it drove me crazy to hear people complaining D’Angelo didn’t play ‘Brown Sugar’.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Betray My Heart – D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)

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My only disappointment was that another spiritual, sublime, superb D’Angelo & The Vanguard experience had come and gone again so quickly – and wasn’t coming to London again a week later as planned because of cancellation of the Eventim Apollo show.  The fact is that no number of live D’Angelo & The Vanguard shows will ever be enough – and I’m grateful for the glorious one I got this week.

Check out a few short snippets from the Roundhouse show here…

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When I got the post-Parliament Funkadelic-blues in April, I consoled myself by buying a ticket to D’Angelo’s Roundhouse show. The tables now turn and my consolation for next week’s cancelled D’Angelo show comes via the live P-Funk experience that awaits me in London on August 7.

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Soulfest 2015 – The Second Coming

Soulfest arrived last year, promoted as ‘Australia’s First Annual Neo Soul, Jazz & Hip Hop Festival’. Some teething problems in its inaugural year left people wondering whether there would be a second Soulfest in 2015.

Soulfest Australia poster

Most who experienced Soulfest 2014 were hoping the festival would come again. Because despite those initial teething problems, Soulfest had delivered to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (+ Auckland) one day and night of back-to-back live performances by a super indulgent line-up of some of the worlds greatest living contemporary soul, R&B and hip hop artists.

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Soulfest 2014 Got D’Angelo

First and foremost, one of those Soulfest 2014 artists was the (up until recently) reclusive D’Angelo.

D'Angelo live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

D’Angelo live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

His live Soulfest performances in Australia and New Zealand with The Vanguard were D’Angelo’s first in some time. Those shows also turned out to be D’Angelo’s last ones before the sudden December release of his new album – the divinely soulful, analogue masterpiece Black Messiah

By now you all probably have Black Messiah in your music collections on vinyl and/or cd yes? Or you’ve at least heard the album? Anybody living under a rock who hasn’t can check out these two [dirty mp3] sample tracks from Black Messiah then get yourself the hard-copy on vinyl or cd.

D'Angelo - Black Messiah (2014)

Black Messiah (2014)

‘Sugah Daddy’ – D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)

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‘Really Love’ – D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)

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D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s October Soulfest shows were also their last live performances before the next one just a couple of weeks ago on Saturday Night Live. Blessed were Australia and New Zealand punters to get the recent experience of D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Soulfest which D’Angelo fans all over the world now want – some lucky folks in Europe getting it right about now on his ‘Second Coming Tour’ which kicked off in New York last week.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

Check out these videos of D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s Soulfest 2014 shows in Melbourne and Brisbane…

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Much More Than D’Angelo

The live experience of D’Angelo & The Vanguard in 2014 was for me the absolute bomb of Soulfest 2014.

D'Angelo live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

But every other leading artist who performed at the festival, and every supporting band member on the main stage with them, were musical gifts of the greatest kind too:  Angie Stone, Leela James, Maxwell, Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), Anthony Hamilton, Common, Musiq Soulchild and Aloe Blacc. So too were the Australian (or New Zealand) based artists who performed on the second Soulfest stage in Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland.

Melbourne                                                                    Brisbane

Angie Stone live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

Angie Stone

Angie Stone live at Brisbane Soulfest 2014

Angie Stone

Leela James live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

Leela James

Leela James live at Brisbane Soulfest 2014

Leela James

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maxwell live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

Maxwell

Maxwell live at Brisbane Soulfest 2014

Maxwell

 

 

 

 

Mos Def live at Mellbourne Soulfest 2014

Mos Def (Yasiin Bey)

Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) live at Brisbane Soulfest 2014

Mos Def (Yasiin Bey)

Anthony Hamilton at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton live @ Soulfest Brisbane 2014

Anthony Hamilton

Common live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

Common

Common live at Soulfest 2014 Brisbane

Common

Musiq Soulchild live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

Musiq Soulchild

Musiq Soulchild

 

Aloe Blacc live @ Soulfest Melbourne 2014

Aloe Blacc

Aloe Blacc live @ Soulfest Brisbane 2014

Aloe Blacc

Aotearoa-New Zealand / Papua New Guinea / Australia represented at Brisbane Soulfest…

You can check out a heap of videos and more photos of those artists performing live at Melbourne and Brisbane Soulfest 2014 here: Brisbane Soulfest  – Melbourne Soulfest – plus these extra ones below pulled from the Beaver library…



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Soulfest 2015

It would be tough to beat the line-up delivered at Soulfest 2014. But praised be the Music Gods, the news for soul, R&B and hip hop music lovers around the world is that Soulfest say it’s going to try. The festival recently announced that a “bigger and better” Soulfest 2015 is coming – with news of the first round of artists to be delivered soon.

I’m still praying for a super-extra-special miracle that D’Angelo might extend his ‘Second Coming Tour’ to include a return trip to Australia to perform the Black Messiah songs Australia and New Zealand didn’t get at Soulfest last time around; and for the artist I consider to be the living Queen of Soul Music, Erykah Badu to come too.  One can only dream 🙂 .

Register on the Soulfest website or keep an eye on its Facebook page to hear up-to-date news about Soulfest 2015.

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