“That’s the best shit I’ve ever seen!”
Ringing out above the crush of guests exiting the sold-out Hollywood Bowl, the comment succinctly summed up Solange’s resonating performance Sunday night. Billed as a “Cosmic Journey,” the engagement closed out KCRW Los Angeles’ World Festival series — and doubled as the kickoff for the R&B singer’s five-market tour series “Orion’s Rise,” while coinciding with the one-year anniversary of her 2016 breakthrough album A Seat at the Table.
Solange not only exceeded fans’ expectations with her rousing, thought-provoking and fun set, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter also won over uninitiated season ticket holders in the house who might have been expecting a lite version of sister Beyonce. By the end of her 75-minute set, however, Solange had them up dancing and cheering as well, leaving no doubt that she’s a gifted performer, vocalist and lyricist to be reckoned with in her own right.
In the evening’s most memorable moment, Solange wordlessly dropped to both knees while performing the show’s encore, the searing black empowerment anthem “Don’t Touch My Hair.” The multi-racial and multi-demo crowd (ranging from baby boomers to young parents toting babies) jumped to a standing ovation and cheered in a mutual nod to the national “Take a Knee” protest.
That was just one of several noteworthy moments wherein Solange brought her timely A Seat at the Table songs to life. Dressed in a sleeveless, thigh-high white sheath with matching leggings, a strong-voiced Solange strutted, sashayed, marched, twerked, stomped and tossed her mane of hair through a host of album selections that address empowerment as well as identity, independence, grief and healing. Opening with the album’s own first track, “Rise,” Solange segued into “Weary,” major crowd-pleaser “Cranes in the Sky” (which won the Grammy in February for best R&B performance) and “Don’t You Wait” (“We’re going to do some dancing tonight; you all get up,” she exclaimed).
Then she reached back to her 2012 EP True for “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work,” during which she kneeled down to eye-to-eye to a male fan in the front row. Another memorable moment occurred when she walked offstage into the audience and performed another Seat anthem, “F.U.B.U.,” as fans earnestly sang along, screamed, danced and captured the scene on their cell phones. Rounding out the set: more True selections including “Lovers in the Parking Lot” and “Losing You” plus “Crush” from her 2002 Solo Star album.
Solange also had a hand in the simple yet intriguing, red-lit set design, comprised of a multi-stepped white platform with a giant white ball centered in its middle and a white pyramid on the left-hand side of the stage. Seated at various times on either side of the ball were horn and string musicians who also danced along to the songs in tandem with the two solo singers and band members performing on the platform’s ground tier next to Solange — who also choreographed the group’s performance art movements.
“I came here years ago to see Ray Charles perform,” Solange told the audience. “To be here tonight is such a fucking honor. I have so much gratitude for you and the Hollywood Bowl.”
Hosted by KCRW radio personality Garth Trinidad, the “Cosmic Journey” opening lineup — also curated by Solange — featured Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) and special guests KING, Kelela, Moses Sumney and Kelsey Lu. The next stop on Solange’s “Orion’s Rise” itinerary is Boston’s Orpheum Theatre with special guest The Sun Ra Arkestra (Sept. 28). Future shows are set for Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center (Oct. 1), New York City’s Radio City Music Hall (Oct. 2-3) and Berkeley, Calif.’s Greek Theatre (Oct. 20 & 22). In addition to Sun Ra Arkestra, the rotating series of Solange-curated opening acts will feature Earl Sweatshirt, Chassol and Flying Lotus.