Erykah Badu and Trombone Shorty
July 9th, 2015
Taste of Chicago, Petrillo Music Shell
Taste of Chicago is promoted as “the nation’s premier outdoor food festival showcasing the diversity of Chicago’s dining community.” That may be how they or outsiders perceive the festival, but really it’s pretty far from the truth. It’s overcrowded, overpriced, and it features nowhere near to Chicago’s finest food. I mean, there is a Wingstop truck and a Spam truck. Let me say that again, there is a Spam truck, like the fake bologna food my dog wouldn’t eat, and she eats goose poop.
Food and crowds aside, Taste of Chicago does offer up one major gift to the Windy City: free music. And when I say free music, I’m not just talking about an oldies cover band or some local college rock band. Taste of Chicago brings some of the most exciting acts around to the city of Chicago, in the height of the summer. Taste alumni include the Replacements, My Morning Jacket, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, and so many more. Last year, we covered Janelle Monae’s gymnastic-like performance at Taste, and in 2013, we covered Robert Plant. This year, Taste brought two acts who’ve been making substantial and straight-up good music for 20 years: Erykah Badu and Spoon. Sure they are on different ends of the spectrum but both are underrated mainly because of their consistent greatness. Erykah Badu was up first, and her performance proved as mesmerizing as you would expect someone whose been doing her thing for 20 years.
Opening for Erykah Badu was the insta-energy of Trombone Shorty and his band Orleans Avenue: an opener guaranteed to get the people moving. For those unfamiliar, Trombone Shorty is New Orleans native and trumpeter (confusing right?) Troy Andrews, who plays high energy, modernized big brass music for the masses. Among his own tunes, he mixes instrumental covers of songs everyone knows (“Let’s Get It On”, “Saints Go Marching In”), making it easy for the everyone to get into the groove. Plus, Trombone Shorty played 90 minutes, an extremely long set for an opener, matching the stage time of Erykah Badu. Can’t complain about more music.
After a short break, Erykah Badu’s band finally landed on stage, setting down a cool evening groove, which would later become the spaced-out “20 Feet Tall” once Erykah graced the stage. Badu had a larger-than-life stage persona, wearing an outfit covered in feathers and a casual tan hat to cover up her honeycomb of a hairdo. Badu’s band certainly lived up to the challenge as well, laying the perfect bedrock for Erykah and the 10K or so people in Grant Park to move to.
The set spanned her five albums and two decades worth of music, from first album jam “Next Lifetime”, the cool summer breeze of “Cleva”, to the irresistible snap of “Window Seat”: nailing each song with her signaturely deep sultry voice. About half way through the set, Erykah let her hat go, and her colorful weave fly, which brought out an even looser Erykah on stage.
I got the vibe that Erykah saves “Tyrone” for last each set, as the energy, humor, and attitude in her most signature song is too much not to end with. Erykah stopped and restarted “Tyrone” a few times – for quick jokes, a musical detour to a 50’s doo-wop jig, and even a full story about a trip to the eye doctor – all before the hysterically rowdy finish.
I was extremely impressed with Erykah Badu, and if she happens to land in your town (which is rare indeed), definitely make the trip.