D'Angelo and The Vanguard: The Live Experience by Lesley Keller

I won't even attempt to do a show review. This is not what this is about. This is my experience in the words I can muster to describe a show that was so incredibly mind blowing, that 3 days past, I'm still thinking about it. D'Angelo and The Vanguard performed at Best Buy Theater this past Wednesday and it was one for the record books. It was the show that you tell your grandkids about because it will probably be the best show you'll see in your life. It was so many things in one: an experience, a blessing, a release, a homecoming. D'Angelo bared his mind, body and soul in that room and shared everything with a crowd of strangers who he hoped would relate to his message, his groove... the groove that has encircled his mind and come out of his pores for years without fail. The ever-changing conglomeration of sounds that ebbed and flowed and poured itself mercilessly to tape. The lyrics that arranged themselves methodically to invoke such a wide variety of emotions. The breath that D'Angelo had been holding for all these years had finally been released in this room and we were all too thankful to do the same. All the doubts in our minds of whether he'd measure up to the untouchable legend of years past were decimated. He didn't just measure, he exceeded. He blew our minds so completely that we were all drunk, suckling at the nectar of soul and funk that poured off this mans body as he bounded back and forth across the stage. Commanding us the same way he did his band: A flick of the wrist, a set of fingers in the air. He played us like his greatest instrument, molding us into a throbbing mass of bodies, eager to move without boundaries.

As the night wore on we all realized he wasn't merely playing the music, the music was playing him. Stretching on for minutes well into the double digits, songs curled themselves into pockets so deep we were left breathless. As he sang “Back To The Future,” we all knew this was a line in the sand. The time for honest songwriting is back. A wakeup call to all the musicians out there to stop resting on their laurels and get back to making music that truly means something. On the other side of the coin, it was a wakeup call for us listeners to never accept mediocrity. D’Angelo and The Vanguard was giving us a master class in what it means to care wholeheartedly about artistry, vision, passion, musicianship and showmanship.

It was a force of nature, almost carnal. The music was presented to us in ways that so many imagined D' would do in the bedroom. He gave it all to us so freely, so generously. It was selfless, urgent, and all encompassing. We all wanted more but were unsure we could handle it. Another hour passed. Would he launch into round two? Round three? We waited; we watched… and as he set into the most languid, sexually charged version of “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” known to man, we all wondered, “Would this be the moment that we break?” Some closed their eyes, some cried, some sang to the point of hoarseness. The same lyrics that were sang all those years ago weren't just about the physicality anymore. It was also a spiritual cleansing so deep we felt like we'd been reunited with a loved one lost long ago. Don't get me wrong, D' is a sexy man who knows how to get the women going. The squeals the women made after the line "I'd love to make you wet..." were inhuman. I'm surprised I didn't see any undergarments launched at the stage, or women dragged out by security at this point. So many women reduced to wanton beings. So much must have been going on in the crowd behind me, I saw two women onstage, taking photos of the crowd and of the frenzy that D' started.

No one cared about the 14 year hiatus anymore. No one cared about the legal troubles or the drugs. This one night of salvation purged all of our worries in ways we couldn't hope to imagine. D'Angelo is real person, a man of flesh and blood with the same emotions and feelings we all have. He was our brother returned home from battle. We welcomed him with open arms. He delivered as much to us as we did to him. I hope his tour continues on so everyone reading this gets a chance to experience this as I did.