Fans were treated to a smooth jam session as Solange and guests serenaded the city at The Masquerade Thursday evening.
Fresh off the release of her latest EP “True,” which SPIN Magazine named the third best pop album of 2012, the younger sibling of R&B/Pop superstar Beyoncé Knowles stepped all the way out of her sister’s shadow for the night in a show that kept the audience on edge.
Doors at The Masquerade opened up at 7 p.m., allowing ticket holders enough time to beat the daily 9-5 traffic before the opening act went on at 8:45. Even with over an hour and a half given for patrons to enter, those driving down North Avenue came to an abrupt stop after crossing Glen Iris Dr. for there was a line of cars with drivers scouring for parking.
Established in the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta in 1989, The Masquerade was formerly the DuPree Manufacturing Company equipped with a water mill. After being transformed into a restaurant and bar known for good pizza and a small movie theater, The Masquerade soon turned into a night club with live music and is now used as a mid-sized concert venue. Today, it has three indoor stages on three different levels of the building, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.
The full house gathered in the Heaven level of the venue with the audience comprised of relatively young people, mainly women. Once the lights dimmed, the crowd remained idle until realizing that neo-soul singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe crossed the stage.
Monáe, who just won her first Grammy award for Song of the Year (“We Are Young”) with the group “fun.”, came to introduce her good friend Solange and the opening act, Roman GianArthur. GianArthur, a member of Monáe’s Wondaland Arts Society, struck the crowd as a modern-day “Prince,” gracing the stage with his fiery electric guitar playing during a soulful version of rock group Radiohead’s song "High and Dry."
GianArthur has written songs for Monáe and played on many of her albums, but nothing took the crowd by storm quite like the performance of his official debut single, "I-69." The track displayed a style reminiscent to Shalamar and the Jacksons, with a hint of 80’s funk mixed with today’s pop.
The song’s title left listeners pondering whether GianArthur was referring to an enchanting ride down the highway or a hidden metaphor in his lyrics about a particular bedroom maneuver.
After a brief intermission following GianArthur’s performance, a new band hit the stage with Solange accompanying them.
Solange arrived on stage wearing a plethora of African style prints. Soon she soon saw a rush of people coming from the back of the Masquerade towards the stage to see her.
The singer, who has had recent success as a DJ, landed in Atlanta a day after performing on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Letterman enjoyed the performance so much that he suggested that the two go on tour together.
Opening her set with “Some Things Never Seem To F***ing Work,” a single off of “True,” Solange immediately set the tone for the evening by singing and dancing throughout every song the band played.
“Atlanta, y’all got it smelling really good in here,” Solange said referring to the scent of marijuana that filled the room from the crowd. “Now I’d like to bring out an old friend, he goes by the name of…”
Then the baseline for T.O.N.Y, off her second studio album, 2008’s Sol-Angel and the Hadley St Dreams, began and so did the ultimate crowd sing along. The album debuted at number nine on the US’ Billboard Top 200 charts, making it her most successful release up to date.
The rest of Solange’s set included clever and creative introductions into the next selection while talking with the audience until she began her playlist from “Sol-Star,” her debut album, which lost the crowd a little bit.
One of the only times that Solange was not dancing to was during her rendition of the late Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love.” The audience was happy to hear a familiar melody and got the chance to hold hands with the songstress if they were lucky.
“How many of you brought your dancing shoes?” Solange asked. “Well how many of you wore the wrong shoes and you’re going to dance anyway?” The crowd rejoiced in reply.
There was a slight pause of hesitation between Solange and the listeners, for no one knew what there was to expect until the instrumentals for her latest single “Losing You” dropped.
Towards the end of the performance of “Losing You” and during the intro of “Sandcastle Disco,” Janelle Monáe graced the stage again to help close the show with her friend much to the crowd’s delight.
Even after a quick encore, there was a slight reaction to how short the show was and much chatter about how everyone got their money’s worth.
Solange next looks to head back home to Houston to shoot the video for “Lovers in the Parking Lot.” The artist’s next live appearance will be March 6 in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art.
Author: James Pressley