Dawn Richard, with Bridget Kelly and Ro James
January 17, 2013
Better than: The late night Riff Raff show at the same venue.
Sometimes it’s refreshing to leave your apartment, your cubicle, your laptop, wherever, and go listen to a singer you love sing some songs you love in a roomful of people who feel the same way and aren’t afraid to show it. “I want you to sweat; don’t be bougie in here,” Dawn Richard told the crowd at SOB’s last night. Opening with Armor On standouts “Faith” and “Bombs”–the former a crescendoing piano-house track that culminates with a festival-size drop, the latter a double-time banger that goes as hard as just about any r&b made in 2012–made her command that much easier to obey. Everybody showed it.
Of course, it was clear early on that this would be a devoted crowd. “I learned something tonight,” the event’s host said in his introduction, “We think her name is Dawn Richard,” and before he could tell us what he learned, most people in the room responded with what they already knew, inflecting their best French accents for an in unison “Reh-shard!” Once the music began, most songs became sing-alongs, and when the words didn’t come, most were eager to supply handclaps in the few places where they were lacking. Still, few matched the intensity of Richard’s two back up dancers, who in keeping with the one of the distinguishing motifs of the just released Goldenheart (key tracks: “Riot,” “Warfaire,” “300” [like the movie], “Tug of War”) wore all black and moved only in angles, punching the refreshingly clear SOB’s air as if they were training for battle.
After “Bombs Away,” Richard slowed the set’s pace with “Heaven” and “Scripture,” then reworked her new “Return of a Queen” as a full-band neo-soul jam. From there, she jumped back over 2011’s Prelude to a Tell Tale Heart and her work as part of Diddy-Dirty Money, to test the audience with Danity Kane’s “Damaged.” Needless to say, everybody passed, though if she were using letter grades I might have lost points for preferring “Show Stopper.”
“Gleaux” was next, and maybe it was the sweat in my ears, but by the time she finished with Goldenheart single lead single “86,” I was swearing I could hear the “Din Daa Daa” bassline interpolated under the hook.
Of course, as necessary as it is to go to the show, it’s just as nice to return to your apartment or laptop (hopefully not your cubicle) and put the show back into context. With “r&b is broadening its sonic palette” pieces pushing an all-time high, it will be a shame if Goldenheart and its predecessors are left to be cult favorites or even worse, litmus tests that might in one question, number grade, or top ten list separate the real fans from poseurs. This music deserves better.
Random notebook dump: Richard’s bassist did it right by playing his parts on keys during the uptempo songs and on a four-string during the slow jams. Too many shows suffer from musicians who aren’t versatile or creative enough to do both.
Overheard: This is actually a pretty good one. Dawn, joking around after singing “Damaged”: “That’s the first time I played that song in 27 years… They thought I burned Danity Kane down. They try to blame a bitch for everything.”