SZA and Solange Stun at Afropunk: Live Recap

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Solange Knowles performs at the 2017 Panorama Music Festival on Randall's Island in New York on July 28, 2017. 

“This is technically our fifth time ever playing these songs live,” SZA revealed to the large crowd at Afropunk Brooklyn in Fort Greene’s Commodore Barry Park Saturday (Aug. 26). Aside from when the rising singer would turn to her band and ask, “Where are we [in the setlist]?” -- she would then remind herself and sing a few lyrics a cappella before diving in with the band -- it was near impossible to tell.

SZA’s set was loose but confident. She bounced around on stage as if she was dancing alone in her bedroom at times, and elsewhere appeared more like a boxer in the ring as she threw out a succession of verbal punches with relatably blunt lyrics from her breakthrough album, CTRL.

“Did you guys know me before this album?” SZA asked.

Dressed in bubblegum pink and white tracksuit pants (with all the side buttons undone) and a matching pink strapless top, SZA started her set (12 minutes late) with “Supermodel.” The irony as she sang, “I could be your supermodel if you believe” was palpable. Judging by the dense and growing crowd she garnered, it’s clear she has plenty of fans who believe in her.

In between songs, she spoke in her childlike, high-pitched voice. She thanked a fan for throwing a $20 wig on stage, and waved to her mom and aunt who were in the crowd (she later apologized to her mom before singing “Doves in the Wind”).

As her set spilled past its scheduled end time, SZA cut herself off in the middle of a story -- “Oh shit, we got to hurry. We have to get to Solange” -- and ended with “The Weekend." By that time, the crowd had already thinned out, because as SZA said, Solange's headlining set -- on the main stage that she had curated for the day, with acts like SamphaThundercat and others -- was scheduled to start soon. 

Though SZA was worried about ending on time, it proved not to be a problem since Solange started nearly 30 minutes late due to a handful of technical difficulties. But as soon as Solange's signature red lighting bathed the stage, fans knew the show was finally about to start. Moments later, Solange -- plus her two backup vocalists and numerous band members -- walked out in their uniforms of red to open with “Rise.” Each person on stage played an integral role in the performance art that is a Solange set, from the in-synch isometric movements to the densely layered live production.

Largely contrasting SZA's more freeform performance, Solange's strictly structured set finally loosened up during “F.U.B.U” when the instrumentalists, which at this point had gathered together to appear like a full marching band, ripped into a funky instrumental jam while Solange sunk down to the ground to twerk on her hands and knees.

Even the headlining stage seemed too small of a space for Solange (fans had climbed on top of Porta Potties for a better view) but she made sure that her soothing and stunning performance, both visually and audibly, eased any and all woes. Technical difficulties and crowding aside, her presence and performance ensured Afropunk day one ended on a high. 

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