The Foreign Exchange, Dwele Club Tequila Urban March 27, 2015
Forgive me, but the last time I ever stepped foot inside Club Tequila was when it was a food market. Or at least had all the makings of a food market. Now the venue space had expanded to incorporate lounge-like seating areas, a wide stage with a huge screen and plenty of drinking space.
It also allowed enough space for the Foreign Exchange to let a bit more people into the groove on Thursday night. Less than a full year had passed since the band, led by Phonte Coleman and Nicolay had come together inside of Fitzgerald's. I wrote then that the venue felt like a sweatbox on a Friday night, a juke joint where dirty things are whispered and somebody is off giggling about their latest sexual conquest out in the open.
Thursday night was a bit cooler than their date here last June. Coleman, noticeably slimmer hawking a Jordan T-shirt and jeans, found multiple times to throw on those cool R&B-dude Ray-Ban sunglasses and riff in a fun interplay with background singers Carmen Rogers and. The main draw of a Foreign Exchange show isn't the set list, which could touch anything from 2013's Love In Flying Colors album or their 2004 debut Connected, but how much fun you would have in the building.
How do you enjoy a Foreign Exchange show? Well, first you release all the negative energy around you. And you deal with Phonte, arguably the best freewheeling performer around, giving you anecdotes about teachers and children, Sade's "Smooth Operator" and faux Soul Train lines for "We Are On the Move." There's also a cover of the Jungle Brothers' "I'll House You" and Robyn's "Show Me Love," all in the name of enjoying house music.
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There will be moments where you are asked, "How are you gonna the pay bills" and how you hope "them people" put you on a payment plan for "Alright." Better yet, how about you getting an unexpected cover like Migos's "Handsome & Wealthy"? Or a declaration that OG Maco's "Bitch U Guessed It" needs to replace "Lift Every Voice & Sing" as the Black National Anthem. Or even discover that Silk's first album was called The Shocker and people just called him Silkk the Shocker 'cause people chose to read what they want.
You think "Daykeeper" should be the end but no, Phonte says he hasn't gotten enough sweat on his shirt, so the usual night closer, "Better," does the truck, elongated, chunky and gospel-like. Or telling you how he met Keith Sweat. Because even in his greatest whining singing voice, Keith Sweat's actual speaking voice is just as whiny and amazing to deal with.
For a solid chunk of time before the Foreign Exchange hit the stage Thursday, the inside of Club Tequila belonged to Dwele, the Detroit-born R&B singer who forged on not just as a role-player on Kanye West's "POWER," but for Slum Village as well as his own solo career. A large bit of his set dealt with doing things in a rather extemporaneous fashion, remixing his songs with the usual mix of R&B cool but spicing it up whenever necessary. The crowd was responsive, cheering him on while also keeping up its own airs.
He played it as loose as possible, keeping restrictions on only the songs he knew that would immediately draw people in. He chose his final record, the crowd-pleasing "Find a Way," into a genre-bending twist of hip-hop, country, reggae, go-go, salsa, a touch of Slum Village's "Tainted" and Nate Dogg's opening refrain on "It Ain't No Fun."
You probably should never come to a soul concert if you aren't there to have fun. You definitely shouldn't come to a soul affair if you think Kumbia Freeque won't set the atmosphere just right (hint: They did and then some). The best bet would have been to sit your ass at home.
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Personal Bias: When you've followed an act in different life moments, you're a fan for life. I've been a Phonte/Nicolay fan since 2003. 12 years later, nothing has changed.
The Crowd:The late-twenties, early-thirties, just-got-off-work-in-need-of-fun-drink-and-the-potential-for-some-steamy-sex crowd.
Random Notebook Dump: After the show, Phonte and I exchanged daps like cousins who kept up with one another but didn't need to speak every damn day. The first time I ever saw him perform, it was at Warehouse Live and we joked over gourmet tarts. This go-round involved being amazed at creations from E-Dub-A-Licious cookies and cupcakes. "I couldn't live here," he said with wry smile, digging into a chocolate cupcake infused with peanut-butter crisps in the icing and on the interior, obviously pleased. He even shot an impromptu commercial because the damn things were so good.
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