A triumphant return: D’Angelo’s second coming a big success
What you need to know:
- In a funky hat, rock star gloves and leather jacket, D’Angelo first creeps into a dimly lit stage as the sermon-esque intro of 1,000 Deaths plays.
- The Second Coming Stockholm’ concert is the only time I’ve seen an artiste get a standing ovation right in the middle of almost every song.
- Following conversation with Alan on music business and D’Angelo’s African reach, I’ve called it a night.
For 14 years, Grammy Award-winning American neo-soul/R&B singer, songwriter and record producer D’Angelo, born Michael Eugene Archer, had been working on his 2014 Black Messiah album.
His release of new material and return to the stage is undisputedly this decade’s most awaited musical phenomenon. On February 28, 2015, I am among more than 3,500 people at the Annexet Concert venue in Stockholm, who witnessed D’Angelo’s ‘The Second Coming Tour.’
In a funky hat, rock star gloves and leather jacket, D’Angelo first creeps into a dimly lit stage as the sermon-esque intro of 1,000 Deaths plays. Soon, the churchlike Prayer and elaborate lights introduce his nine-man band – The Vanguard. Together they perform D’Angelo’s old, and new songs. It’s not entirely a neo-soul concert but rock and soul — sounds that are very much in now yet still reminiscent of the Jimi Hendrix blues/hard rock music era. A sharp, soulful rocker scream and a constant change of outfits show how much older D’Angelo has morphed into his mentor — Prince.
D’Angelo’s 1996 debut, Brown Sugar, and 2000’s Voodoo have both been considered his magnum opus. Since 2000, however, he has rarely performed and hardly had any interviews, building a mystique around his music and its longevity.
MAKE A RETURN
Most artistes fail to make a return after sabbaticals. But D’Angelo’s is triumphant despite personal turmoil, including a deadly road accident, charges of drug possession and DIU. Since then, the pianist has fixed his life and perfected his skills on the bass guitar. At the concert, he occasionally picks up his beautifully black and silver embellished guitar to flaunt his mastery.
D’Angelo’s nude and controversial 2000 video Untitled (How Does it Feel?) transformed his image from one of the founding fathers of neo-soul to a sex god. His demeanour on stage, however, isn’t overtly sexy, and even though he has now added a few extra pounds – D’Angelo is still inescapably attractive.
From his stage act and music like the subtle lyrics and R&B elements of Really Love, to bona fide neo soul tracks like Sugah Daddy and the political song Charade — he hasn’t lost any sexiness.
There is a special bond between D’Angelo and Swedish people. His 2012 ‘Occupy Music Europe Tour’ started and ended in Stockholm. ‘The Second Coming Stockholm’ concert is the only time I’ve seen an artiste get a standing ovation right in the middle of almost every song. Background vocalist and one of Black Messiah songwriters Kendra Foster says: “We get tired and literally fall out after concerts during the tour but we never miss a city’s vibe. We felt love in Stockholm.” Untitled is D’Angelo’s last song for the night. In an emotional ending, he misses its first line and has to start over at Vanguard’s second intro.
Legendary American executive Alan Leeds is D’Angelo’s tour manager. In 1992 he won a Grammy for his work on a James Brown compilation. He is best known for organising concerts and tours for James Brown and Prince. After the concert, I meet a bespectacled Alan backstage.
EXTENDED TO AMERICA
He invites me into a candid conversation confirming that ‘The Second Coming Tour’ will be extended to America, Africa and make a return to Europe this summer. Looking serious, Alan is open to discussing anything around the tour and D’Angelo but not an interview.
“Even his record label executives are here but haven’t and won’t see him tonight,” he says, adding, “D’Angelo is very private and is always very exhausted after such a concert.”
Following conversation with Alan on music business and D’Angelo’s African reach, I’ve called it a night. I am walking into the lift when he beckons me to follow him to ‘a different exit’ through spiral corridors and stairs — just like in the movies. In a red-carpeted large room only equipped with a couch and refreshments, Alan introduces me to D’Angelo, who looks a little dazed, almost as if he was meditating or praying.
Alan and my friend Sylvia watch this grand and exclusive meet-up. D’Angelo holds my hands, initiating a respectful cheek kiss. He’s got a smooth and deep talking voice with a southern American accent.
“You came all the way from Kenya? Oh my God! You gotta be kiddin’! Did you enjoy the show? God bless you sister!” I share with him my scope of work in journalism. It’s euphoric to meet one of my music icons - we chat for about seven minutes, but it feels like 70.