Essence Festival 2015 Day 2 Highlights: India.Arie, Charlie Wilson, Goapele & More
Hordes of people gathered at New Orleans' Mercedes Benz Superdome for Day 2 of the annual Essence Music Festival on Friday, July 3.
There were younger attendees headed to the Superlounges for newcomers like Nico & Vinz and Adrian Marcel. And there were also the older folks out on date night excited to see Frankie Beverly & Maze and Charlie Wilson. To be fair, the latter puts on a performance not to be missed by music lovers of any age.
The evening started off in the Superlounges with Bay Area chanteuse Goapele. The "Strong as Glass" creator took full command of the Verizon Now Playing stage. She teased the attendees, moving through her own tracks and on to those of iconic figures like Michael Jackson. She put a lovely touch on the King of Pop's "I Can't Help It."
Goapele respectfully asked the crowd if they were ready for more in the sweetest tone, to which the packed room responded in affirmation. "I'm going to do the title track, 'Strong as Glass,'" she announced. "I'm going to dedicate this to all the mothers (and) all the small business owners." She moved into the lyrics and the crowd swayed in unison. Goapele had her fans' hearts in her hand.
Slick Rick was another artist in the Superlounges giving his supporters exactly what they came to see. Over on the Coca-Cola Art of Hip-Hop stage, The Ruler had people of all ages passing through. Even a few Frankie Beverly & Maze fans -- dressed in all white linen -- made their way upstairs to bob heads to everything from "Children's Story" to "Lick the Balls" and a freestyle or two. "Even with this patch on my eye, I'm still dreamy," he spit with a smirk.
A bit later on, India.Arie kicked off her set on the main stage, with her acoustic guitar in hand of course, starting off with "Video." Arie has a unique knack for blending her set, going in and out of topics as she sees fit. On Thursday, she went from love in "The Truth" to self-love in "I Am Not My Hair" and then being open to love on "Ready For Love."
The singer/songwriter seemed to pour herself into every lyric, dancing and grooving in her long pink dress and head wrap decorated with butterflies. One woman was spotted with a tear streaming down her face during the latter song. She debuted a new song and brought her flute out when closing her show with "Ready For Love." The "Songversation" creator smiled as the crowd erupted and the words "Love is my religion -- India.Arie" flashed on the screen behind her.
"Thank you for letting me dance, sing and tell my stories," she said.
Wilson may have stolen the entire evening. The 62-year-old crooner seems to have limitless energy during his shows, moving endlessly for at least an hour at a time. With a live band behind him, Friday was no different. He started with The Gap Band's "Party Train" and "Early in the Morning" then he ducked into Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful" before slowing things down for "There Goes My Baby."
Comedienne Luenell, who had her own set earlier in the evening, was spotted two-stepping in the front, but the majority of the packed Superdome was doing the same. Wilson paid homage to the new-school for a quick second with himself and his female dancers hitting a couple steps to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk," and it somehow blended into Sugarhill Gang's "Apache (Jump On It)."
There was a quick emotional moment where he showed his pipes while singing gospel later in his set. Wilson slowed down a bit but it didn't last long. "I gotta get back to work," he said with a chuckle. "'Cause I could praise all night."