Friday, Feb. 19, 2010
Fox Theater, Oakland
Better Than: Sex. Unless, with, well…
Erykah Badu is from Texas, so she can be forgiven for thinking she needed four layers in Northern California in February. And maybe it's just her microphone skills, but was she really so cold she had to wear a sort of camouflage balaclava/aviator cap velcroed below her chin and a top hat? For an indoor show?
Badu began Friday's gig all bundled up, working warbled melodies from a theramin with the same hovering gestures you use to warm your hands by a fire. She was stiff and erect and, wrapped as she was, a little scary, like a mummy. But soon she lifted off her floor-length overcoat and began to move around the stage.
In front of lit velvet curtains, and in her spangled tights, top hat, and a double-breasted jacket with tails, Badu became an old ballroom show singer from the Tin Pan Alley days. All that was missing was the cane. But as she shed layer after layer (revealing next a grey Public Enemy hoody and at last a purple T-shirt repping Queens, N.Y.,'s DeVore Dance Academy) the singer also changed her stage personas. She shifted-shape from ragtime Hollywood tap dancer to drama queen performance artist to gangstress emcee almost leaning on her mic stand.
Often, Badu pushed her palms out to both sides, as if holding back collapsing walls or stumbling drunk down a hallway.