“Are you all still with me … are you sure?”
There was no need to ask. H.E.R.’s query was met with a hail of shouts, screams and applause as she closed the first of a two-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday evening (Aug. 13). From the first moment H.E.R. stepped out onstage for the sold-out gig with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, she winningly showed just what a consummate performer she’s become at the tender age of 24.
Before H.E.R.’s concert, conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Phil warmed up the audience with performances of two symphonic compositions, including Duke Ellington’s lush and moving “Three Black Kings.” Then from offstage, H.E.R. earned her first thunderous applause of the evening as she sang a verse a capella from Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On.” Walking onstage in a shimmering gold pantsuit and red platform shoes accenting the red lenses of her sunglasses, H.E.R. and the L.A. Phil segued smoothly into Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” — and it was full steam ahead.
Over the next 40 minutes, she and the Phil teamed up on eight more songs drawn from her prior compilation albums and this year’s debut full-length album, Back of My Mind. Crowd-pleasers included “Bloody Waters” (with the multi-ethnic and multi-generation audience screaming as she picked up her trusty guitar for the first time), the Academy Award-winning “Fight for You,” “Focus,” and Grammy-winning song of the year “I Can’t Breathe” (with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and names of other murdered African Americans emblazoned across the stage’s backing video screen). The performance of H.E.R.’s hit with Daniel Caesar, “Best Part,” featured a commanding performance of Caesar’s part by one of her four background singers — a 16-year-old named Miles.
“I need to take all of this in,” a smiling H.E.R. said at one point. “I feel so blessed to be here. “I had some anxiety because this is my first official show back outside, and I never thought I’d be playing with such musicians as the L.A. Phil. And it’s sold-out, which is crazy.”
After a 20-minute intermission, H.E.R. — alongside her talented band and backing vocalists — jumpstarted the proceedings with a rollicking version of DJ Khaled’s “We Going Crazy,” which features the singer and Migos. Over the next hour, H.E.R. showcased her skillset as a versatile singer (full-bodied vocals that can also soar at will), emotionally searing instrumentalist (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, upright piano, drums) and engaging performer (dancing and interacting with fans on walkway between the pit-seated audience and the Bowl’s main arena).
Reaching into her growing catalog, H.E.R. delivered a dozen more songs ranging from “Slide” featuring YG and her featured role on Jhené Aiko’s “BS” to “Damage,” “I’m Not OK,” a cover of Goapele’s “Closer” and “Cheat Codes.” After singing “Damage,” H.E.R. acknowledged, “You know what? I just love R&B music … just love it.”
All throughout this portion of the evening, the Bowl audience was singing along, dancing and cheering among several standing ovations. Before closing the evening with “We Made It,” H.E.R. reciprocated, thanking the audience for “being with me on this journey.”
H.E.R. and the Los Angeles Philharmonic with conductor Gustavo Dudamel perform again Saturday (Aug. 14) at the Hollywood Bowl.