Despite a brisk Tuesday night breeze, a line had already formed outside The Independent more than a half-hour before doors were scheduled to open for Solange’s sold-out performance. Scalpers lurked on the corners of Divisadero, cell phones held close to their ear. The crowd was diverse in a way rarely seen in San Francisco, as if Solange’s silky alternative R&B had realigned the city as a straight line from 3rd St to Valencia to Castro and onto Divis. Sure enough, the audience was excited to see this rising star in person — her exposure has skyrocketed lately, led by a seductive, retro video for her hit single “Losing You” (which was featured in a recent Girls episode), a blockbuster Super Bowl halftime show this past Sunday by her sister, and glowing reviews of her True EP.
Opener Kelela brought the lights down low and her sound man DJ Kingdom dropped futuristic R&B beats to start the show. The music was slow and sticky, reminiscent of both The Weeknd and late night DJ Shadow recordings, all falsetto vocals and carefully crafted drum beats. Unfortunately, the crowd was ready to see Solange and Kelela didn’t have the energy or the songs to hold their full attention. She made the right move when she graciously left the stage after a short set, admitting that she “couldn’t wait to see Beyonce either.”
If you’ve seen the shot-in-South Africa video for “Losing You,” then you already have a realistic idea of how a Solange live show feels: vintage, funky, catchy, and performed with a smile. Solange was wearing a relatively conservative 1970s-inspired dress with one leg coming out at the thigh, a nice visual match for her music’s sexy throwback style. She thanked the crowd constantly as she ran through every song from the True EP, backed by a full band and two singers. At different points, she admitted she was “one out-of-shape bitch” and suggested that we “lose our shit” to “Losing You” (which the audience took to heart, I can say confidently).
Solange opened with the lightly grooving “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work,” emphasizing the fuck in the title by singing with her middle finger in the air. The gesture was less an affront to the audience than to a unnamed ex-lover, a topic Solange attacked with enthusiasm throughout the show. “Locked in Closets” received a powerful facelift for the live performance; the drums were tight and heavy with a deep bass groove. An effortless dancer, Solange looked happy and confident on-stage (I suspect her years of performing as an teen actress, model, and back-up dancer for Destiny’s Child helped) and she was eager to tell us how much fun she was having.
Eight or nine songs later, just as fast as she appeared, Solange thanked the audience and disappeared backstage. As the lights went up, you could tell the crowd was still itching for more, their thirst for Solange’s beautifully executed R&B not yet satisfied. Here’s to hoping the girl can give everyone what they want and deliver a future full-length that continues to roll with the momentum she’s already built for herself.