LIVE: Date Night featuring Nikki, Nakia Henry, and Monica Blaire

Photos By Reginald Duvivier

Each time you make the descent into Drom in NYC, you’re guaranteed an excellent experience. Monday night continued that streak, but a spirit filled the place in this incarnation that pushed that experience into another realm. In fact, one could say that the basement dwelling rose to the heavens with the music that flowed through the room. This lush experience was the first installment of Date Night, the brainchild of Keya Maeesha Presents. In an act of kindness to spare young parents a night to themselves, she dreamed of a concert experience that would be worth their while. Using that inspiration, she curated an event more than worth the time for couples and those hoping to be in one.

The ambiance at Date Night was on par for the occasion. Candles lit the tables and you were welcomed by a warm soulful mix provided by DJ Shinobi Shaw. Moving seamlessly through the ages, the mix was a perfect appetizer for the evening’s proceedings. Touching on J*Davey , Detroit stalwarts J Dilla and Platinum Pied Pipers, and even the French version of ‘Georgy Porgy’, DJ Shinobi Shaw made sure that the audience was open for the goodness they were about to receive. When it was time for host Dee Phunk to officially begin, the crowd was primed for excellence.

The first taste was brought by Nikki, whose bluesy alto had heads engaged from her first note. Hailing from Houston, Texas, Nikki did powerfully emotive renditions of songs we’ve come to love over the years. She opened with an amazing interpretation of Jill Scott’s ‘The Way’, accompanied by a space like electro-funk provided by the band. Continuing on the funk train, she followed with a belting of the classic Mary Jane Girls song ‘All Night Long that had the crowd swaying. Nikki changed speeds with the oft forgot Brandy track ‘He Is’, melding the nuance of softness and passion. Her take elicited a vulnerability largely absent from the original and made it a fresh listen. She worked this same magic on the popular Beyonce song ‘1+1’, which elicited shouts from the audience.

Continuing this amazing display of vocal talent, Nakia Henry was next to take the stage. Introduced with a sparse percussion, she immediately burst into a soulful rendition of the Nina Simone song ‘Be My Husband’Announcing herself as ‘Mars Blackwoman’, this Get To Know series alum from Detroit had the audience wrapped around her finger with her stripped down approach. Moving into her original work, she encouraged the crowd to be ‘Afromantic’ in their relationships. Each song was another way to hear just how original and powerful her voice is. An extraordinary bandleader as well, Nakia Henry drew you in and made you a believer. She finished her set with a call for the audience to be grateful for their blessings, orchestrating a call and response your favorite preacher would be proud of.

The night ended with a performance that no one wanted to end. Another Detroit native, Monica Blaire, was responsible for this explosion. Roaming the stage covered in gold, she used every inch of real estate to give a truly soul rocking performance. Through her incantations and movements, it was though we were watching a High Priestess in her own ceremony. It was certain that the ancestors were with her for this occasion. Her performance was reminiscent of greats like Patti Labelle and Millie Jackson. Playfully sexy and coy, while exhibiting an amazing amount of vocal dexterity, she had the audience wrapped around her finger from the start. Weaving through a selection of her original music and some covers (including an amazing rendition of SWV‘s ‘Rain’), she did acrobatics worthy of the gold medal in the Vocalist All-Around. She sang with so much power that for a five minute stretch, she didn’t need her microphone. Looking around, even the waitstaff mesmerized by her performance. If you have the chance, she is not one to be missed.

And you should not miss the next installment of Date Night. Keya Maeesha Presents did a fantastic job with this first session. It’s easily a place to remember why we love music so much and why we love ‘Love’ as well.