Last summer, I went to see Lenny Kravitz at the Mann and was blown away by his opener, Andra Day. I was excited to see that she was touring on her own and playing the Ardmore Music Hall. After buying a ticket on Stub Hub (apparently I was more excited about it than prepared and almost missed the sold out show), catching the first half of ‘Nova basketball, a little bite and some tasty beers at Tired Hands Fermenteria, I was ready to rock and roll.
I missed the first opener, Saleka Night, a little bitty thing that sang one heartfelt and stirring song with Ms. Day’s band and also M. Night’s daughter, but caught a couple of songs of the second opening act, Conrad Sewell. People seemed to enjoy this likeable Aussie boy band hair singer. He was fine, but I was really there for Andra Day.
From the first moment on stage, she did not disappoint. First, she is absolutely stunning in a retro way. She came out on stage in a paisley silk pajama set and fur stole and was absolutely radiant. She was more beautiful than I remember and with a much better voice. I re read my June post where I had described her as a sultrier Amy Winehouse, but she is so much more. She is jazzy, funky with touches of Nina Simone and Billie Holidays’ tragedy. She started out the evening by saying, “tonight we will be having a conversation and it will be done through music.” Ah, she is speaking directly to me. Being able to articulate what music can do for one’s soul, psyche and relationship all wrapped up in one. I do indeed have many conversations through music by sharing favorite songs and bands with friends when the music resonated with me. Sometimes I am not even sure why music moves me or why I need to share that certain music with a certain friend. I just know that music moves me. So, I was more than ready to have this conversation with Ms. Day (for some reason, I only refer to her as Ms. Day, not Andra).
Her voice is just mesmerizing. She was singing through a 1940s look alike microphone and she sang, which really does not adequately explain what she was doing up there, the first song sitting down with so much emotion that I was almost weepy. I could not take my eyes off of her and she was so mesmerizing that I forgot to check out her band. Holy hell, they were good when the Ms. Day spell was finally broken during the second song. There was so much energy among all of them and they clearly adored each other. When band members spoke, they told us she was as genuine as she seemed. Conversely, she was constantly telling us how good her band was and how lucky she was to tour with them. There was immense chemistry between her and Charles, her keyboardist, and their songs together were some of my favorites. She even left the stage for a song so Charles could play one of his originals. It sounded a lot like a George Benson tune. The name George Benson has, literally, not passed my lips for 25 years and I cannot not name a tune he sings/sang, however, that evening, that was what popped into my head immediately. She sang a Nina Simone song, she took off her make-up during a Kendrick Lamar song (No Makeup (her vice)) and swayed and grooved with that awesome band. At one point, her earpiece went out and she stopped the band to start over and explained “we can’t give you mediocrity now, can we.” Right on- that is the way to deal with an equipment failure! Though, truth be told, her mediocrity is better than most people’s best.
The show went way too quickly and she is a wonderful storyteller and performer. She is as political as she is playful. She is classy, and while stunning, I think she should only be photographed in black and white to really highlight her classic retro jazz singer persona. The Ardmore Music Hall is the perfect venue for her; you need a small, smoky (metaphorical) club for her intimate type of show. And the conversation continued. As she wrapped up, she told us that she and her band members are all huge Queen fans. What? Boy, I did not see coming at all. Nothing in her set would have prepared me for that. Now, stay with me here as I try to recount the many and diverse musical influences and styles I have now heard. During the June show I thought she sounded like Amy Winehouse and played both Bob Marley and Eminem covers. This evening, she was channeling Nina Simone, performing spoken word in honor of Phife Dawg, doo wopped a bit, her keyboardist sounded like George Benson and their favorite band was Queen! Did I get them all? Probably not. Good lord, who else incorporates that many different styles with ease and aplomb? I can’t recall another show quite like this one. As they sang, “I want it all,” it was something like I never heard (and for those keeping track at home, this is the second Queen cover I have heard in six days). She left the stage after shaking as many hands as were thrust at her. A little dazed, I left the show thinking this was the best conversation I have had in a very long time.
12 shows to go, 84 days left…