We've had Christmas right? Because no matter what gifts you received this past December, this one from D'Angelo and The Vanguard, courtesy of Saturday Night Live, was the greatest gift you could imagine from an artist whose star shone brighter than the aurora borealis.
First up was a thrillingly divine performance of Black Messiah's romantic single, "Really Love." Kendra Foster's honeyed tones, a three-piece string section and that familiar spine-tingling Spanish guitar set the stage aflame before D'Angelo even sidled into view. When he did turn his face to the crowd, he shuffled into town like a gunslinging loverman with a gaze that could stop all the traffic in Manhattan with a single glance. What is an incredible song on record grew in stature live on SNL's stage. Every subtlety, every nuance of the delicate song was given even more purpose and poise. Simply stunning. And for added good measure, check out that lip-curling snarl of desire at 2:05 in. How could you possibly resist that?
And, more to the point, how do you follow that? Well, match it and maybe raise the bar even higher, that's how. "The Charade" has been played live for a couple years now, but it was played here as if it had never seen light of day before. The song's power and beauty was matched by the staging and choreography. T-shirts bearing the bold statements "I Can't Breathe" and "Black Lives Matter," choreographed Black Power salutes and the eerily familiar chalk outline of the chorus all added to the sheer brute force and vitality of the performance. Without a great band though, an artist is nothing, but this is a great band. Pino Palladino's bass, John Blackwell's drumming and Jesse Johnson's casually frenetic guitar work were impeccable.
These were performances of immense power, pleasure and meaning lit up by D'Angelo's imposing presence and fabulous falsetto. If you have tickets for D's upcoming concert at NYC's Apollo Theatre on Saturday, February 7th, then be happy. In fact don't be happy, be ecstatic and revel in the fact that you were lucky enough to get them. And if you don't? Well, here's to hoping that some decent fan videos from the show surface online. In the meantime, we'll just watch these SNL performances on repeat.