High on Badu's Bow at the House of Blues
Conventional critical wisdom often insists that when it comes to music, the words "quality" and "popular" are mutually exclusive. But in one fell swoop last night -- well, OK, two fell swoops -- Erykah Badu reminded us that doesn't have to be the case.
Badu's show inaugurating Dallas' outpost of the House of Blues didn't sell out -- no surprise, as the cheap seats sold for nearly $70 -- but she filled the place with her singular brand of soul, funk and hip-hop. Mixing songs from her most popular albums with several new cuts, Badu couldn't have moved the crowd more, couldn't have sung better, couldn't have had a better band, couldn't have been more fitting as the Dallas HOB's christening act.
That would have been enough, but what followed transformed an already stunning night into a truly special one. Following her first set, Badu debuted her latest project, the Cannabinoids -- a freaky, funky collective of Dallas-area producers, musicians and DJs. Clad in matching purple hoodies, the group -- consisting of local luminaries such as Picnic, Headkrack, Skin and several others -- glided through about 45 minutes of material, most of it improved on the fly. Tthe music flowed smoothly from a drum-machine jam to a keyboard riff to subtle record scratching, all conducted by Badu.
The musicians in the Cannabinoids were all hand-picked by Badu, and she couldn't have chosen a better crew. The chemistry -- the flow -- between each individual worked as smoothly as a 6-4-3 double play. Which is not to say it was not an odd performance, as Headkrack rapped in his electronically altered voice, which listed from a helium squeak to Darth Vader bass. But it was risky, smart and full of ass-shaking moments brought down the house...House of Blues, that is. --Jonanna Widner