PHILADELPHIA– Somewhere between Rick Ross‘ Maybach Music set and Jay-Z‘s grand closing ceremony, there was a soul revival at the Made In America festival. D’Angelo and Janelle Monáe added a funk and soul groove to the festival’s first day.
Headliner and organizer Jay-Z closed the first day of Made In America with a hearty hip-hop stage party that included heavyweight rap collectives Maybach Music Group and G.O.O.D. Music. That’s after Skrillex sent a wave of laser lights and cast a frantic techno spell on all within earshot. For the most part, the festival was a raise-your-hand-in-the-air-like-you-don’t-care affair.While Ross zipped through his set with a DJ and a stage full of hot rappers, Janelle Monáe filled her stage with sound and instrumentation. Her string section moved with the enthusiasm of a baptist choir; her horn section, which consisted of two men on trombones, pumped the tunes with vigor. Monáe vibrated with electricity when she performed “Locked Inside.”
Where other acts attempted to push the audience to dance, or stand up, or pump hands, D’Angelo only asked that his audience vibe with him. The soul singer who is on type of comeback tour, drenched his set in harmonies, electric guitar riffs and plenty of rock star cool. Much like Janelle Monáe, whose band shared the spotlight with the singer, D’Angelo gave room for his drummer and guitarist to flex.
This newer shirt-on D’Angelo didn’t rush or bounce onto the set; he strutted onto the stage with his guitar. After performing a few songs, he lingered on “Sh*t, Damn, Motherf***er.” And when the song was done, he disappeared, only to reemerge at the piano. Cigarette smoke floated up from an ashtray and his pack of Newports were on full display.
He rewarded the audience with a performance of his hit record, the steamy “(Untitled) How Does It Feel.” The video for the song, which premiered in 2000, showed a shirtless, and presumably naked, D’Angelo pleading to a camera. The clip solidified his sex symbol status.
On Saturday, he played the opening chords of “(Untitled) How Does It Feel” and paused. He stepped from behind the piano to soak up the vibes. He slow-walked the song and milked it for it’s brilliant sound and steady groove.
Back in July, D’Angelo performed his first show in the U.S. in twelve years and has since made a comeback to the scene.