The second day of live performances at Essence Festival 2013 packed in just about as much star power as the first as the crowd was treated to performances by Solange, Keyshia Cole, Trey Songz, Charlie Wilson and New Edition. Looking to capitalize from Day 1’s energy and enthusiasm, Essence managed to help Day 2 live up to the reputation set by its predecessor.
The night started a little slower than Day 1 as the crowd filed into the Superdome at around 6:30 as Solange kicked it off with an unorthodox set filled with indie rock influences, sharp, bass-heavy electronica, neo soul melodies and leanings into the more retro and vintage of music. And though she may lack a certain distinctiveness and strength in her voice quality, she definitely did her best to make up for in stage presence and style swinging her knee-length “Poetic Justice” braids like a woman possessed as she strutted arrogantly across the stage in silver and black spiked heels and red and black cat suit. As she shared with the crowd some of her past work like “I Decided”, “T.O.N.Y.” and “Sandcastle Disco” as well as her current single “Losing You”, the crowd may not have responded as much or been as familiar with her music, but Solange still gave a potent and lively performance, and may have gained new fans in the process.
From there, Keyshia Cole took over, making it known good and well that even though she may have been gone from the public eye for a minute, she’s still got the pipes to compete with just about any R&B songstress on the music market today. Criticized for her live performances in the past, Keyshia took to the stage focused and with a certain assurance of herself as a live performer to get the crowd singing along to some of her older favorites like “I Just Want It To Be Over” and “I Remember” while she moved in nearly perfect sync with her backup dancers.
She also did a few numbers from her latest album, Calling All Hearts, but the real response came from the crowd when she sang songs from her earlier days of taking up the mantle from Mary J. Blidge as the unofficial distraught female R&B representative for women who’ve been hurt, and one could tell that she still relishes in the role, especially when she did “I Remember” and “Heaven Sent”. Ending her set with a shortened rendition of her hit “Let It Go”, Keyshia looked and sounded about as good as she has in a long while.
The next performance came from the self-proclaimed “Mr. Steal Your Girl” himself, Trey Songz. His true purpose in being at this year’s Essence Fest was to promote his new movie “Baggage Claim”, but judging from the crowd response to his performance, you wouldn’t have guessed it. From the opening moments with “Say Ah” onward, Trey made sure to give a showstopper that back in the day could have rivaled the old school “For Ladies Only” shows. Giving an immediate injection of energy that the audience fed sumptuously from, Trey, shirtless and sweaty by the end of the performance, made sure to play to the crowds wants with “Can’t Help But Wait”, “I Invented Sex”, “Bottoms Up”, “Heart Attack” and renditions of “Neighbors Know My Name” and “Dive In” that surely got a few panties to drop by the end of the night.
The night moved from new school to old school as the one and only Uncle Charlie Wilson entered the Superdome for what was arguably the performance of the festival. Between three costume changes, four dances, a full band, a “which side of the stadium is better” competition between Charlie and one of his leading band mates, a performance on an R. Kelly-stylized crystal clear piano, a church organ inspired praise break and performances of some of his biggest solo hits like “Charlie, Last Name Wilson” as well as the standard Gap Band classics “Yearning For Your Love”, “Outstanding” and “Early In the Morning”, Wilson unequivocally ripped the stage to shreds, lit it on fire and watched it burn with the crowd chanting his name nearly from start to finish.
The final act of the night was none other than Boston’s own New Edition, and with all six members in attendance. Though Bobby Brown was introduced by Ralph Tresvant two songs into their performance, NE worked as a collective unit to give the crowd exactly what they wanted: music from both the New Edition catalog as well as a few hits from the solo careers of Brown, Tresvant and Johnny Gill. From “Mr. Telephone Man”, “Candy Girl”, “Can You Stand the Rain”, “Hit Me Off” and everything in between, as well as “My Prerogative”, “Sensitivity” and more, New Edition packed a ton of hit singles into a nostalgic and powerful performance to bring Day 2 to a close.
All in all, each artist that performed at this year’s Essence Fest left a little bit of themselves with the crowd to savor and cherish, as each performance brought it’s own unique substance and flavor to New Orleans. One can only imagine what the performance for the 20th annual Essence Fest will bring to the table in 2014.Google+