The sold-out show brought all different shades and hair textures, as fans waited patiently in line for the doors to open. At approximately 7 p.m., fans poured into the venue, making their way to the merchandise table and the bar to get a little something to commemorate the night. In between sets, obscure and familiar R&B music blared through the speakers, ranging from “The Root” by D’Angelo to “Some Way” by Phyllis Hyman.
The house lights went down at 8 p.m., signaling that it was time for the show to begin. Looking onto the dark stage, the shadow of Ron Gilmore Jr.’s silhouette held a lit bundle of sage.
“I’m the only dude on tour, that’s why I gotta sage. I gotta set off the positivity,” he announced to the crowd.
Taking us through his introspective journey as a Black man in today’s America, Gilmore, adorned in a multicolored Ankara print shirt, began his five-song set with “Same Shame” and ended with his new song “Talking.”
Thirty-minutes later, Mikhala Jené stepped on the scene. Sauntering to the stage in her sparkling sheer sleeveless dress, the North Carolina native opening with “All I Want” off her Carolina Blues EP. Her set consisted of more songs from her debut EP including “G.O.A.L.S.” and “Mad Bitches.”
Throughout her set, she quizzed the crowd on their R&B knowledge as she sang parts of a few songs for everyone to catch on and sing along. Out of the three songs, “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker got the loudest reaction.
She wrapped her set with the last song of her EP “The Annunciation.” The stage was lit in multiple shades of blue, fitting for the EP title and mood of the song. Before leaving the stage, she closed with a few words. “I wrote this song for every single dreamer here tonight to keep fighting, to keep striving,” she explained. “Every dreamer has been slept on. I want to give a huge heartfelt thank you to Ari Lennox for believing in me.”
Rounding out the two other supporting acts, Baby Rose appeared on stage shortly after 9 p.m. and began her set with her latest single “Borderline.” Her passionate emotions were definitely felt amongst the crowd.
She gifted the crowd an unreleased slow groove called “All by Myself” that put Rose in her feels. Four more songs completed her time, but “Sold Out” was one of the standout performances.
Following Rose’s set, the anticipation for the headliner’s arrival heightened as the band and stage props like a papasan chair, and a table of mannequins heads with wigs made it to the dark platform.
With the stage just right, the crowd was greeted by the trumpet sounds from the album’s premier track. Shortly after, the first lady of Dreamville appeared on stage in a snuggly big red furry coat. After singing the first verse of “Chicago Boy,” she flung the coat on the chair to reveal her outfit; a black furry cropped tube top, hip-hugging black jeans and black open toe heels.
She glided into “Broke” off her debut album before sending the sea of people into nostalgic bliss her rendition of ‘90s jam “Tell Me” by Groove Theory.
As soon as the baseline from “Whipped Cream” started, the crowd roared again because like me they can’t get enough of this soulful serenade. Marijuana expectedly fills the air, and Lennox quickly took note.
“It’s loud, I can smell it. Y’all about to get me high on this stage. Y’all know what happens when that happens? I get naked.” The crowd erupted in laughter and the comedic side to this soul singer commenced.
To break from the album, she got into cuts from her EP Pho, including “Cold Outside,” “Night” and “GOAT,” which featured a snippet performance of “Oops (Oh My)” by Tweet. Lennox swayed and body rolled all throughout the performance before asking the crowd to get nasty.
“I’m gonna need y’all to get disgusting and bust it open real fast. Like on some Megan Thee Stallion type vibes.”
Of course, you would think a fast-paced song would follow that request but unexpectedly, she slid into “La La La La.” The same inflections and goosebumps received on the original track were impeccably translated that night.
Moving back into the album cuts, Lennox sings J.Cole’s vocals on “FaceTime,” asking the crowd to sing it back. After three rounds of the call and response, the beat dropped and everybody fell into a zone. This time, she added “Kitty Kat” by Beyonce for good measure.
She casually shared her living situation as if we were all old friends catching up. Someone shouted out that Lennox could be her roommate. “I’m messy! You haven’t heard the song?” Such a seamless move into “New Apartment.”
The band evened things out with the pensive but soothing “Static.” Lennox got a little personal about the background of the album’s last track. “So, this song is a letter to my anxiety disorder. Whatever your facing, whatever trails you’re dealing with, scream to it ‘I’m in control!’ Own that shit, you know what I mean?”
The end of the show draws near and we’re in anticipation of what’s next and what will close the show.
“I made this [album] for the ones that look like me. I made this for the naturals. We be creating shit. We be inventing shit. We be saving shit, gotdamn. So, I just ask everybody in here to give it up for the chocolate people, ok?” Lennox proclaims to the crowd.
As she eased through the second verse and hook of the honey-coated title track, she nonchalantly introduces J. Cole for his entrancing verse and caused the crowd to go into a frenzy. After their performance, Lennox beamed as Cole whispered in her ear for a good minute.
Even though she performed “Shea Butter Baby,” we knew the show couldn’t be over. “Ok guys, the show’s over, goodnight!” which threw the exhilarated crowd through one more loop. Quite the jokester, she turns around to walk back on the stage to close the amazing show with the hard-hitting “BMO.”
From start to finish, Lennox took her fans on a rollercoaster ride of sounds, emotions, vibes, and feelings. She commanded the stage with each note and interaction, prompting fans to hang on to every little moment. The transitions from each song weren’t as smooth as her vocal stylings but those random stage conversations added uniqueness to the experience. On the other hand, we already have a sense of who Lennox is so her adorable quirkiness is widely accepted.
Photo credit: Cassidy Sparrow/Getty Images