Solange Fitzgerald's March 12, 2013
Solange has a famous sister. You've probably heard of her; both women grew up around here.
And now let that be the last time we mention the elder Knowles sibling, because her younger sister is definitely on some different shit.
In her half-decade and change as a recording artist, Solange has publicly cultivated an interest in indie music and a bohemian lifestyle, to arrive at a persona somewhere between Erykah Badu and someone even freakier, like Björk. She's more of a space cadet than an Earth mother, befitting an artist (make that capital-A Artist) who counts a song called "Cosmic Journey" in her repertoire.
Tuesday night at Fitz, her first public performance in Houston since I can remember, Solange and her band played a solid hour of the artiest music I have heard in a long while, a highly stylized blend of electro-pop and postmodern soul -- or R&B with all the gospel surgically removed and strains of classical and jazz implanted.
The songs were loaded with pillowy Eno-esque synths, splashes of piano, electronic drums, robotic bass, a couple of rather obvious nods to Michael Jackson and Prince, some reggae beats, and Solange styling herself as both seductive and mysterious, a girl next door with a lot on her mind.
There was a lot going on, but when it worked, the set found a slippery groove that would have mellowed out Mattress Mack circa 1983. (Someone should be fined for not scattering votive candles around the stage; perhaps they forgot to retrieve them from the basement.) Her singles "T.O.N.Y." and "Losing You" stood out the most, thanks to stronger melodies than usual, and a reggae-pitched cover of Selena's "When I Fall in Love" struck a heartfelt note in an evening of artifice.
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It was a little baffling, I don't mind admitting. Large swatches of the show left me fairly sure I'm not hip enough to fully appreciate this music, or maybe I just needed more black light and a bong to help set the mood, shall we say.
Solange never really went for the jugular, but then it wasn't really that kind of show. Instead she opened the encore with a cover, the chilly art-funk of the Dirty Projectors' "Stillness Is the Move," which summed up the evening pretty well. (Or as Willie Nelson put it, still is still moving to me.)
Her decision to embrace her artier side is understandable given her family situation, and so far (from where I'm standing) it looks like a qualified success. But even her poppier, more traditional songs -- closer "Sandcastle Disco" pumped a warm, breezy melody among some blingy vocalizing -- can stand on their own just fine, no matter to whom she may be related.
Personal Bias: Music like this I generally enjoy more in theory than in practice. But it was cool.
The Crowd: Largely black, well-heeled, tragically hip. And as packed as I've ever seen Fitz. Put down the damn smartphones already.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Scooch on in here."
Overheard After the Show: "Oh my God, you guys! Solange is so lovely!"
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Random Notebook Dump: I made a conscious attempt not to mention the "B" word in this review. It wasn't that difficult.