Meshell Ndegeocello, Fredericks Brown | Thalia Hall | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Meshell Ndegeocello

Meshell Ndegeocello

Meshell Ndegeocello, Fredericks Brown 

When: Wed., Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m. 2014
Price: $28-$42, $400 for box seats
Whether despite or because of her sui generis talent, bassist and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello sometimes seemed to be getting in her own way in the 90s, trying on so many ideas that she seemed to lack an identity—and it hardly helped that she changed direction (jazz, funk, rock, soul) with every record. Over the past five years, though, she’s seemed to settle into herself; she no longer relies on intense displays of virtuosity, and she’s more willing to sit back and let the messages in her music do their own talking. Her new album, Comet, Come to Me (Naive), is as technically accomplished as anything she’s done, but it foregrounds the sensuality and grace of the performances. A cover of the Whodini rap classic “Friends” features a spindly constellation of acoustic guitar and layers of gut-rumbling low end (agile electric bass from regular collaborator Chris Bruce and hefty synth bass from guest Amp Fiddler), and it flows naturally into the seductive ballad “Tom,” with luminescent guitar lines from blues-rock veteran Doyle Bramhall and heartbroken lyrics from Ndegeocello (“There’s nothing between us / Except the feeling of nothing”). “Forget My Name,” one of several reggae-flavored songs, has an existential bent: “Beware of certainty and doubt.” Throughout the album Ndegeocello keeps things at a cool simmer, and that relatively narrow dynamic range requires her to operate with subtlety—but such constraints only seem to increase the spellbinding emotional power of her music. —Peter Margasak
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