Charlie Wilson dominates, D'Angelo dissapoints at New Orleans event
Don't underestimate the power of soul. While Friday's lineup at the 2012 Essence Music Festival was filled with an assortment of Hulkshare-generation singers and '90s R&B icons, it was the soul and funk roots of the festival that was appreciated most by the Big-Easy crowd in attendance on Friday night (July 6).
Charlie Wilson, D'Angelo, the Pointer Sisters, Keyshia Cole and Trey Songz took the main stage of the New Orlean's Mercedes-Benz Superdome, while acts as SWV, Vivian Green, Kindred the Family Soul, Gary Clark Jr. and more performed vintage-to-virgin hits on several smaller stages, sponsored by Coca Cola, McDonalds, Ford and Verizon.
But despite impressive sets by many of the night's acts, it soon became apparent that the night belonged to Wilson. The former Gap Band frontman had couples twirling to his quiet-storm ballads and jamming out to funk classics such as "Outstanding" and "Party Train." Next-generation singers like Songz and D'Angelo might have garnered the lion's share of the pre-festival media buzz, but the screams that Wilson brought forth during his two-hour set of hits resonated throughout the Superdome louder than any of the other night's acts.
Check out these 7 highlights from Friday night of 2012 Essence Music Festival.
1. From the start of his set, Charlie Wilson proved why he was the perfect headliner for Essence Festival's Friday night. Wilson stole the show performing fan favorites while rocking colorful, glow-in-the-dark suits. Wilson's sweaty two-hour set was filled with his solo Billboard No.1s ("Without You," "Charlie, Last Name Wilson") and Soul/Funk classics from his Gap-Band era ("Outstanding," "Yearning For Your Love," "Early in the Morning") and kept the crowd on its feet throughout his entire set. Close the end of the set, Wilson brought out Puerto Rican singers Solero Brothers -- who he signed after he discovered them covering his songs in Spanish on line -- to perform his 2010 hit "You Are."
2. Halfway into his performance, Wilson took a moment to give praise to the Man above for getting him through alcoholism and crack addiction. "I've been sober 18 years," Wilson proudly admitted in one of the night's most candid moments. The singer continued spreading good news by telling fans to look out for a new single from his upcoming sixth studio album this fall.
3. Close to 10:30 p.m., D' Angelo stepped on stage with surprisingly no introduction. The singer performed a 75-minute minute set full of funky guitar riffs, sly two steps and his signature falsetto. But despite the buzz surrounding the singer's return to the stage, D'Angelo didn't exactly blow the audience away throughout his set. Songs from his sophomore album (2000's "Voodoo") garnered a lukewarm response from the audience, who clearly wanted the sexy crooner they met back in the mid-'90s rather than the improvising rocker that graced the stage. "When is he performing 'Brown Sugar'?," someone in the crowd said, summing up the sentiments of a lot of audience members. But all it took was two notes of "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" for D'Angelo to pull the crowd -- especially the ladies -- back into his fingers. The singer walked up from behind the piano and teased the fans with his vocal prowess, sounding as pristine as he did 10 years ago.
4. Before Charlie Wilson stepped onto the stage, DJ Steve Nice warmed up the crowd with classic R&B and s hits, getting more reaction from the crowd than even D'Angelo's set. Nice spun classics from Marvin Gaye, Al Green, the Isley Brothers and more.
5. Keyshia Cole proved her heartbreak songs are her fans' favorites. After the singer "played homage" to '70s sould group Rose Royce (and also Mary J. Blige) by performing the slow-burning "I'm Goin' Down," Cole moved the crowd to sing-along with her own hits and brought the audience to its feet with one of her highest-charting singles "Love."
6. "Yuup!" Trey Songz screamed from behind the stage before coming out and riling up the crowd with his sensual, sexual hits, such as "Love Faces" and his newest single, "Dive." Before closing his set with the Nicki MInaj-assisted "Bottoms Up," Songz got personal with his fans and took a moment to pin-point a few ladies from the crowd (something that his friend Drake, is known to do at his shows, as well). Although the shout-outs were appreciated, it was the act of taking off his white t-shirt that got the better response.
7. While Songz performed on the main stage of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, SWV blessed fans in the Ford Super Lounge with vintage hits, such as "Weak," "I'm So Into You," and their Michael Jackson-inpired "Right Here/Human Nature." Coko, Taj and Lelee also performed their two newest singles, " Co-Sign" and "Love Unconditionally," from their 2012 top 10 album, "I Missed Us." After their performance, the ladies strutted into the press room to take a few questions from media. SWV described their new album as "classic SWV," but laced with a good mixture of up-tempos and ballads "in the same vein as 'Weak.'"