This concert was 7 years in the making.
One would find it hard to believe that its been 7 whole years since Breath from Another, the legendary album that established Esthero as a soul superstar in her native Canada and around the world. Sometimes I wonder how many 7 year old children we have in America because of that album.
For me, personally, Breath From Another was my album of choice during the down periods of my life. Esthero's sweet soulful voice (which I would compare to Sade) has been there for me when times were rough, and I almost thought that this concert would be a sort of spiritual evolution of sorts.
However, Esthero has changed in the seven years since she released Breath. Although she's worked with such hip hop artists as Goodie Mob, Saul Williams, Cee-Lo, Mos Def, The Isley Brothers, and the Black Eyed Peas (pre-Fergie), her new album, Wikked Lil' Grrrls, ventures into a completely different direction–grrrl power pop.
So Esthero was put in a particular position this past Sunday night. How does this self-proclaimed “pirate pixie” satisfy her trip-hop/urban fan base while getting them to embrace her new direction?
Esthero figured out exactly how to accomplish this task. How? She got crunk.
I'm surprised I used Esthero and crunk in the same sentence, but the last time I was involved in a concert this rowdy was when I went to see Ludacris and Nelly. The love from the crowd was overwhelming and actually surprising at times. I would've have never expected an Esthero concert to be as raucous as it actually was. Also, there were a few fights and scuffles in the section that we were in, but it only added to the atmosphere of the show.
The show started with the raucous “Wicked Lil Girrrls,” and then moved onto the underground hit “OG Bitch.” After playing a few songs from her new album (which most people honestly didn't know), Esthero pleases the crowd with a wonderful rendition of “Country Livin' (The World I know)” and an a capella version of “Superheroes”.
Unfortunately, many of the songs that made Esthero a household name were missing from the set list. In fact, the band didn???t even know how to play many of them. Was the crowd disappointed? Not even. Esthero could start singing Camptown Races and the crowd wouldn't care.
For me, however, this aspect of the show was quite was disappointing, since Superheroes is one of my favorite tracks of all time. However, Esthero's a cappella rendition more than made up for my sorrow. The fact that everyone in the audience knew every line made it even better.
Esthero's encore featured another surprise: an acoustic version of “That Girl.” She admits that this was only time she???s played the song on this tour. She then proceeded to sing an acoustic version of her current single, “We R In Need Of A Musical Revolution.” The love and support from the audience at the end of this tune brought her to tears. She even addressed her controversial R Kelly dis in the song with a simple, yet poignant, “Fuck R Kelly.”
Before I end this review, I want to say that Esthero's opening act, Toya Alexis was simply amazing. I'm actually planning a separate review of her set. Although Toya is not known in the States, she was actually at top 6 finalists on Canadian Idol, and is slowly becoming an urban superstar up North. And yes, she almost upstaged Esthero at her own concert.
So did I get my $20 bucks worth? Damn straight I did. If you aren't a fan of her new work, then yes, you might be disappointed. But for everyone else, seeing Esthero in person was almost like a pilgrimage for me, and it will be for you as well.