An eager crowd bundled in heavy coats wrapped around Brooklyn Steel (Nov. 27) for H.E.R.’s second I Used To Know Her Tour date this week. After a meticulous security check, the age 16-and-up concertgoers zipped through the doors to get closer to the R&B opener, Tone Stith.
Dressed in a black tee, and yellow striped pants, Stith strolled out to the melodic tune, “Let Me.” His eleven-track debut project, Can We Talk, is fueled by swoon-worthy wordplay and falsettos reminiscent of ’90s R&B. With the crooner’s timid persona, and a dimly lit stage, the songs, “Better Than Before,” “Take It There” and “Nobody Else,” were powered beautifully by Stith’s knockout vocals.
His no-frills approach to showmanship was well-received by the NYC mass, affirming his raw talent. Even so, the newcomer’s cover of Michael Jackson’s iconic, “Human Nature,” created a frenzied room of admirers and new believers. Now in his element, Stith yelled, “One time for Michael Jackson, y’all. Brooklyn make some noise tonight! I have to say — I am from New Jersey, so I feel at home.”
To ear-piercing screams, a piano-based cover of Drake’s bop, “Madiba Riddim,” commenced. With a wink at a beaming onlooker, Stith stroked backed his hair and finished the popular track on a high note. The singer’s take of The-Dream’s offering, “Rockin That Sh**,” made for a climatic closer, as the venue sang along, “That I’m hooked on your body/ And I’m trying to be yours.” Soaking in the audience praise, Stith professed, “Brooklyn, I love you so much,” and spelled out his name for those becoming acquainted, encouraging them to follow him on social media.
Putting a spin on G-Eazy’s hit, “No Limit,” recent Atlantic Records signee, Bri Steves made an energetic entrance. With a flawless crown of dreadlocks, golden bamboo earrings, and a blush pink sweatsuit, the singer-rapper shimmied into her virally praised, “Jealousy.” Her loyal mob below her joined in fervently. The get money record, “Miami,” made for a vulnerable moment as she passionately detailed hard knocked truths about her come up. “So, y’all mind if I slow this down just a little bit,” Steves questioned outstretching her microphone to cheers.
“How many of you had your heart broken by an ain’t-shit-n***a before,” she asked. The forthcoming breakup earworm earned some applause — while other spectators began waving their cell phone lights from left to right. “I think they like to sing,” the rapper told her DJ. “And, not just in the shower — I think they like to sing, for real,” Steves finished with a hearty laugh. Mary J. Blige’s classic, “I’m Goin’ Down,” made Brooklyn belt out off-key, before the Fugees’ anthems, “Ready or Not,” and “Killing Me Softly” took the energy to the next level.
Showing off her honeyed voice, Steves dropped, Alicia Keys’ song, “You Don’t Know My Name,” to much fanfare. “Oh, shit! I said I had y’all. I have to bring it back one time,” she barked. As the Jon B. sample, “They Don’t Know” looped above, Steves’ supporters sang the chorus of her single, “Jealousy,” once more. “I want everybody to give a shout out to Atlantic in the building for giving me my shot. I want all y’all to follow me. Much love,” she professed, as she bowed out with a smile.
A memoir-like video compilation shined on a jumbotron detailing Gabi Wilson’s transition into the virtuoso better known as H.E.R. With dark tousled locks, shades, a green track jacket, and yellow pants — she waltzed out with her guitar in-hand. Plucking strings to the I Used To Know Her – Part 2 introduction, “Carried Away,” the headliner’s confidence spoke for itself. Under a crimson spotlight, she tossed her instrument to perform the vengeful track, “2,” shifting into the cautionary ditty, “Feel A Way.”
Without pausing, she passionately purred into her lovesick arias, “Avenue,” “Be On My Way,” then jumped behind her piano to play “Losing.” Strutting towards the edge of the stage, H.E.R. seated herself on a speaker. With all her instrumentation, the most impressive facet of the soloist’s artistry is her impeccable voice. The poetry waxed on “Against Me,” inspired fans to stretch for her dangling legs. Following the enthusiasts’ “I love you” chants, the Bryson Tiller assisted confessional, “Could’ve Been,” enlisted her set’s only guest, Tone Stith.
Charismatically, they shared center stage, and women became spastic when Stith riffed near H.E.R.’s ear. “That boy can sing,” the songstress exclaimed. “So, y’all listened to H.E.R. Volume 2, correct,” H.E.R. authoritatively inquired. A snippet of “Still Down,” rattled the walls, finessing the mass into a sexier rendition of, “Lights On.” In the spirit of lust, “Say It Again,” thronged through as listeners fired off their intimate request.
Using the song title quite literally, “Gone Away” began, and H.E.R. disappeared backstage. Two backup singers handled the ballad on her behalf. Seemingly refreshed, the leading act reemerged with her guitar, again, unleashing a medley — Daniel Caesar’s collab, “Best Part,” “Nothing Even Matters,” by Lauryn Hill & D’Angelo, “Hard Place,” and Smokey Robinson’s, “Cruisin’,” each inspired jovial participation.
An operatic piano break welcomed the evening’s glowing shift in ambiance. Kaleidoscope lights spun for H.E.R.’s cover of Ed Sheeran’s, “Make It Rain.” With a hand on her heart, the luminary shared, “I do want to talk about something. On a daily basis, we put on this front or face for people. We make it seem like we have it all together — usually, we don’t. Everybody needs somebody, and if you think someone doesn’t have that, you should be that for them. Check on your strong friend.”
The tender lullaby, “I’m Not OK,” keys began as emotional attendees responded, “Where do you go? What do you do? Without me, without me.” Soon, new spoken word grabbed hold of the venue, cueing up the record that launched H.E.R.’s stardom, “Focus.” And, inside the sold-out event, heartbreak continued to translate exceptionally. The tug of war lyrics penned on, “U,” jolted H.E.R. across the stage. Nonetheless, the night’s leading lady was sure to lighten the mood prior to dropping her curtain.
Stetsasonic’s, “Go Stetsa” sample aroused the crowd to represent BK during the track, “As I Am.” So, H.E.R. chimed, “Shout out to my lovers!” The “Every Kind Of Way,” music video gleamed behind the singer, and she danced in bliss. Encouragements pervaded so loudly from both of Brooklyn Steel’s tiers that they briefly overpowered her microphone.
In this fashion, the romance etched on “Changes” united the diverse gathering with its chorus, “We got options/ But I just wanna let you know that I decided/ I finally realized that/ All I want is you.” Waving for what appeared to be H.E.R.’s exit, she said, “This [show] is definitely confirmation for me. I am only 21 years old. This is such a blessing. I am so grateful. Thank you for making my dreams come true.” The band began playing as she walked off, but the support of her devotees stirred the songster for a turntable encore. “Lost Souls,” slapped overhead while H.E.R. saved her MCing for the final number, echoing the knowledge Lauryn Hill gifted the world on, “Lost Ones.”