The crowd was tense in Brooklyn while they waited for the return of D’Angelo to New York City. People jockeyed for position trying to catch a glimpse of the preeminent bluesman; the man who quit music at the height of his popularity over a decade ago only to reemerge for a handful of dates last year. Various celebs were in the house and there were rumors of possible guest appearances (Prince, Elvis Costello, Bilal, Jesus?).
After a two-hour long wait two figures emerged from the side of the stage. First was the always jovial Questlove from the Roots, rocking a “Free Pussy Riot” t-shirt, who took stage behind the drum kit. The man dressed all in black on the other side of the stage, turned around and there he was; l’enfant terrible D’Angelo rocking a hat and a do-rag as if the year was 1999. Tonight was going to strictly be a two man affair.
For the next hour they played a relatively uneventful set. The fact that it was uneventful doesn’t mean it wasn’t inspired, fun, and more often than not flat out great. D’Angelo’s voice is still as rich as it ever was; switching between his bluesman drawl and a quick falsetto if needed. He alternated between the three keyboards he had on stage; messing around with tones and settings until he found one he liked. Questlove would lean into his mike making funny faces and unheard jokes at D’Angelo until they locked into a groove. In the meantime the crowd would buzz in the background and erupt once they recognized a melody; dancing, cheering and singing along. The set list was mainly covers with songs from Sly Stone, Prince and even the SOS band (!), but they graced the audience with crowd favorite ‘Lady’ as an encore. When it was all over D’Angelo worked one side of the stage to the other giving handshakes to everyone he could reach while wearing a broad grin, as happy to be on stage as the audience was to be there.