There are no words to explain the musical experience we had last week at The Basement East in Nashville, TN. I would have posted about it sooner, but I was too busy spreading the word about the overwhelmingly talented show I witnessed. Really making her debut at the 2015 SXSW ASCAP showcase, Andra Day is soul, jazz, R&B, bluesy singer from San Diego, California. Her music resonates in so many ways. With profound lyrics, complicated riffs that she makes seem effortless and an intricate melodic backing by an amazing three-piece band. We honestly felt blessed to witness her first performance in Music City.
Not knowing who the opener would be, we showed up early out of sheer curiosity; curiosity does not always kill the cat. We were very, very happy cats after hearing the first song by last-minute opener, Alicia Michilli. A Nashville transplant, originally from Detroit, it was clear Alicia grew up on the sounds of Detroit Motown and carried that soul with her all the way to Tennessee. I was immediately reminded of a younger Etta James or Billie Holiday and it was impossible not to find yourself truly “grooving” to her incredible music and “vibing” with her quirky personality (I don’t know how everyone else uses ‘quirky,’ in context, but I mean it in the best possible sense of the word).
After seeing her live, I obviously went to the great and powerful world wide web to find more of her music and found out that she auditioned for America’s Got Talent, with, might I add, my all time favorite Etta James song “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Think of this video as my, “it’s almost the weekend” gift to you.
You would think this would be a tough act to follow, but not for Andra Day. These two artists’ talents paired perfectly and made for the most amazingly cohesive show I’ve seen in a long time. Coming on stage with a powerful bang, Andra brought the house down with her booming vocals and controlled vibrato.
The space continued to get more and more crowded throughout her set and I’m sure that was because people walking by or eating the most delicious BBQ at Edley’s next door, heard angelic vocals and decided they had to see the face in front of the talent.
Perhaps the most noteworthy moment of the night however, was when Andra opened up the stage for her pianist, Charles Jones to perform his rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” I don’t think I’ve ever been more involved in a live performance before in my life. I lost control of my body and just started doing a whole lot foot stomping and church hands. While this is not out of character for me when I hear a soulful voice tearing up a classic song, I usually do so in the privacy of my own living room. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the talent he possessed and I think that feeling was unanimous.
Andra ended her set with arguably her most popular and inspirational track, “Rise Up.” The performance was awing enough to bring a tear to your eye. With her retro vibe on stage, she has complete control over every element of her performance and it’s refreshing to see an artist so comfortable in their own skin.