“Sorry, my album came out today and I’m really fucking happy!” Estelle proclaimed Tuesday night at Irving Plaza, the release date of her long-delayed third album All Of Me. The gig was a scheduled stop on the BET Music Matters Tour, which completes its 19-city run this week with final stops in Wilmington, Del. (March 1), Nashville (March 3) and Philadelphia (March 5.) Estelle was the sparkly headliner, clad in a flapper-esque sequined dress with frisky fringe that enhanced her playful mood. Other performers included tourmates Luke James, Stacy Barthe and Elle Varner. Tuesday’s show was also presented by Metro PCS and New York hip-hop station Hot 97.
Estelle under all of the lights of the Irving Plaza stage. (Photo: Kelly Ann Petry)
The British singer had just opened up an hour-plus set with two 60s soul jams, her own “Pretty Please (Love Me)” and a cover of The Supremes‘ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” before properly addressing the packed, industry-laden crowd. Among the attendees spotted throughout the night: Julie Greenwald, group chairman/chief operating officer of Atlantic Records Group; Estelle’s manager Kevin Liles, president/CEO KWL Enterprises; Mike Kyser, president of black music at Atlantic Records; Angie Martinez, on-air personality at Hot 97; Erbo Darden, program director at Hot 97; Marvet Britto, founder/president of The Britto Agency; Elliott Wilson, founder of RapRadar.com; Ed Lover, host of 98.7’s “Friday Night Flava” and actor Romany Malco (“Weeds,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”)
Estelle addressed the album’s repeated delays at several points throughout her set, apologizing for her perfectionism (“It just takes me a really long time to make an album”) and thanking her fans for their loyalty (“It’s been years, and you all could have moved on to the next artist by now, so it really means a lot to me that you paid money and you’re here.”) But even though her album had just seen official release that day, the crowd was already able to sing along with many of the new cuts, including the ballad “Thank You,” which an emotional Estelle had to start over halfway through.
Elsewhere, tracks like “Back To Love” and “Wonderful Life” got warm receptions from the crowd, and 2011 single “Break My Heart” got a surprise appearance from rapper Jadakiss. But the most popular guest of the night was John Legend, who chose Estelle as the first artist signed to his Homeschool Records and released a duets mixtape with the singer in late 2010. The pair reprised their fan favorite “No Other Love” from 2008’s Shine to thunderous applause.
Estelle on stage with John Legend, with whom she released a mixtape in 2010. (Photo: Kelly Ann Petry)
Of course, there was one song Estelle was less than thrilled to sing, her 2008 breakthrough hit “American Boy.” Though she was notably grateful for all the opportunities the song gave her, Estelle eventually grew weary of singing it over the years. “I’ve been gone singing that ‘American Boy’ song all these years… I wanted to get on the stage and punch people for asking me to sing it,” she said.
But before acquiescing the crowd with her biggest hit, she launched into a tribute jam session to three recently deceased singing legends to whom she credited much inspiration – Amy Winehouse, Etta James and Whitney Houston. She poured liquor on the stage at the end of each singer’s tribute, noting of the late Houston, “When somebody told me she sang my song ‘American Boy,’ I had to just sit down on the floor because I couldn’t believe she knew who I was!” Judging by the crowd’s warm welcome back to the stage, a new generation of singers may soon be saying the same of Estelle.