It’s impossible to talk about Solange Knowles without mentioning her sister. Beyonce is a powerhouse, and it would be like not acknowledging the elephant in the room. It’s worth bringing up, too, because before her last EPTrue, Solange had only really enjoyed moderate success with her first two albums (Solo Star, 2001; Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, 2008).Probably because in the end they both sounded a lot like Beyonce but just not as good.
This is totally understandable and forgivable. Solange isn’t a power-ballad mama like her sister – her style is much more subtle – but music execs probably had dollar signs in their eyes whenever they looked at her, and pushed for a similar sound. That’s why True is so great. Every track on the EP is killer, and it sounds like a Solange who has really tapped into who she is.
About a year ago, a friend had seen Solange perform in New York; she described her as “stiff” up on stage. Tonight there’s no sign of that stiffness in her stage presence. Her braid-flicks and sprightly, loose dance moves receive as much cheering as her songs (they’re worthy of it), and her chitchat is A grade.
Starting off with ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work’, Solange moves through the True EP, but saves ‘Lovers in the Parking Lot’ and ‘Losing You’ for later on. Instead she opts for tracks from Hadley St., B-side to ‘Losing You’ – ‘Sleep in the Park‘, a cover of Dirty Projectors’ ‘Stillness Is The Move’ using a sample of Dr. Dre’s ‘Xxplosive‘ underneath (which she says she asked for, and was granted permission, personally by Dre), and ‘Cash In‘ from her Saint Records’ compilation Saint Heron. It’s the first time she and her band have performed ‘Cash In’ live, and it goes down well. Apparently she intended it for True but it didn’t quite fit the format of the EP.
‘Lovers in the Parking Lot’ and ‘Losing You’ come back to back, and it feels like the set is drawing to a close. It would be going out on a definite high note with the crowd backing up every chorus strongly and squished together bodies still attempting to dance.
But it’s not the end. Instead an extended ‘Sandcastle Disco’ from Hadley St.is the final song, and the crowd loses a little of its vibe, only reviving when it’s clear Solange is about to leave. The set ends like like a funk show, with Solange leaving the stage while the band continues to play.
Exiting the venue, I can’t help but think: if those Hadley St. songs had been on an album with all of the True tracks, the record would still have had critics falling over themselves with praise. Tonight at her live show, however, Trueoutshone – and even threw shade on – all of her past music. It’s not that they aren’t enjoyable, dancey songs, but there’s a stark difference; live they just don’t reach the same marker that every track from True sets.
PHOTO: Ian Laidlaw (from here)
Originally published 08 January 2014 on Everguide.com.au