Concert Review: Erykah Badu

For almost two hours, she swayed in front of a center-stage mic stand with a small table to either side of her.

Erykah Badu 88 (photo credit: )
Erykah Badu 88
(photo credit: )
Erykah Badu Tel Aviv Convention Center February 2 Afro wig-loving, neo-soul icon Erykah Badu brought plenty of baggage with her when she arrived in Tel Aviv last week. Commenting on regional tensions, she posted on the Internet that her last scheduled performance prior to releasing her impending double-disc, Nu AmErykah, was to take place in Israel because "I want to fix it sooo bad." At a press conference on Thursday, she expressed solidarity with the Palestinian cause and even defended infamously anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Regardless, several thousand Tel Aviv party people showed up at the Tel Aviv Convention Center on Saturday night for Badu's show. Flanked by three backup singers, two drummers, two keyboard players, a bassist and a flutist, Badu took to the stage only after her tight band had established a groove for several minutes. After reading a list of shout-outs that she pulled from her pocket - saying hello to the audiences tuning in to the Galei Tzahal simulcast, thanking the opening acts and saluting Lod-based Israeli-Arab rap ensemble DAM - Badu launched into a chant for Jerusalem that was based on old Negro spiritual styles. For almost two hours, she swayed in front of a center-stage mic stand with a small table to either side of her, one holding a laptop computer and a kettle, the other with a drum machine/sampler trigger board. More about laid-back, regal poise than about traditional verse-chorus pop soundbytes, it was Badu's distant yet powerful presence presiding over intense grooves that dominated the evening. Badu wowed the Tel Aviv crowd early with "The Healer," a powerful new shamanistic single off of Nu AmErykah, proclaiming, "Hop hop is bigger than religion / Hop hop is bigger than my nigger / Hop hop is bigger than the government" in between verses about toppling Babylon ("The people say reboot refresh," etc.). The set culminated with Badu taking us "waaay back," brandishing a cowbell and meandering through a medley of old-school rap classics (like Slick Rick and Doug E Fresh's immortal "La Di Da Di") before explaining to us that all peoples are truly one and heading home.