I remember hearing someone tell a story. They spoke of a time when he and his young son purchased a small goldfish, for the youngster’s bedroom. The man said he looked at this boring little yellow fish in its small polythene bag home, and judged it to be a waste of time, but nevertheless he thought his son would derive pleasure from keeping it and watching it grow. On entering the room, they walked up to the fish’s new glass home, which had been filled for its arrival. As the fish was dropped in it took on a whole new life. What was lifeless, became a golden acrobat, swimming and diving around the bowl and through its faux rockery furnishings. The story teller’s previous evaluation of the fish was altered. He realised that we are shaped by our surroundings. He realised that we can achieve anything if we’re in a conducive environment…Right place, right time! I was given the same lesson on Friday 3rd February 2012. My fish bowl, was the Brixton Academy. My fish was D’ Angelo. His carrier bag was over a decade of alcohol induced musical exile.
A lot has been said about the man’s apparent self destruction, since the release and worldwide success of his 2nd LP, ‘Voodoo’ in 2000. Some say it all started when he agreed to film the video to his biggest hit to date, ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’. It has been said that he couldn’t deal with the sexual pressure and objectification he received after its release. If you haven’t seen it (if you’re a female living in the Western Hemisphere, you probably have) he essentially stands butt naked singing the lines to his Prince-esque ballad. Some say the shy reclusive artist just found it hard to deal with the fame. Those that are still reading have almost certainly seen the pics that came out a few years later showing an apparently alcoholic and obese D’Angelo. If you haven’t Google ‘D’Angelo fat.’ (I won’t punish the ladies by posting the pics here)
Anyway all that has been discussed to death. Late 2011 we heard rumours that he was making music again, that an LP was imminent and that he would make his return to live performance with a European tour. Just a handful of dates in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Paris and London. We took a risk and purchased some tickets, praying he wasn’t gonna come on stage a junkie, with a thrashed voice and lost genius. In exchange we received one of the best shows I’ve seen in years!
The musicianship on stage was incredible. Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave on drums with Pino Palladino on bass. I can’t say I know the other players/vocalists, but the skill was apparent. But above all that, was the voice. That voice that I’ve been listening to and studying for almost two decades. That voice that if wrung out would fill a bucket and a half with liquid soul. That unique unmistakable voice was every bit as connected and clear as I’ve ever heard; In fact I’d say it was the best I’ve heard from him.
I could hear some people nearby complaining. I think they expected to hear an amalgamation of the ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Voodoo’ albums on stage. Like a neo-soul version of ‘We Will Rock You’. Unfortunately for them it seems, D’Angelo has evolved. The hints of Prince, Brown and Hendrix we heard in Voodoo, now form the parts of this genius’ multi-faceted style. And yes I regard the man to be a musical genius! What struck us more than anything was the clear passion and emotion he displayed on stage. He loved being back up there again and it showed. There was a humble appreciation that displayed itself in real ‘You’re gonna leave here blown away!’ energy. My fiance was crying and I was inspired!
To all those fans of real soulful music, I can indeed confirm, D’Angelo is BACK!!!
This was the night we attended. Vibes!
My favourite D’Angelo track to date, from the Voodoo LP.