The veteran songstress and songwriter was well into her 90-minute set at Yoshi’s Jazz Club last night when she unexpectedly announced to the crowd that she was considering a career change. “I’ve been reading about music as a healing modality and I’m hoping that that is the next step that I can take a foray into and make part of my profession.”
The announcement was quite appropriate. Last October, Amel Larrieux released “Ice Cream Everyday,” the long-awaited and oft-delayed studio LP. It had been six years since her last studio album, Lovely Standards (jazz), and seven years since she’d released an album comprised of her own original material. Her fans were long overdue for some of her “music therapy” and rushed to the iTunes store on the release day to download Larrieux’s latest installment. So far, the album’s first single, “Afraid,” reached number 16 on the Adult R&B Songs chart.
Throughout her set on Sunday night, Larrieux seamlessly weaved through material from all six of her albums. She eased into the performance with one of her new songs from Ice Cream, “A Million Sapphires,” establishing a deep and focused tone, followed by “Magic” and “We Can Be New.”
But the energy of the show ascended to new heights with the song “You Don’t See Me,” as the music seemed to transform Larrieux from R&B crooner into a Hip-Hop lyricist. While even throwing in a couple freestyle lyrics about her ‘drink and her two-step,’ Larrieux prowled and sashayed across the stage with a swag that would’ve made Biggie pass her the mic.
And in classic Larrieux fashion, she showed her range and repertoire by performing a cover of Madonna’s “What it Feels Like For a Girl.” With only her daughter, Sky Larrieux, accompanying her on keyboards, the deconstructed version of “Girl” became exceedingly thoughtful and introspective.
She followed with two favorites from the Morning album, “Unanswered Questions,” and “Gills and Tails.” But the show elevated once again as she performed the hypnotic new song, “Danger,” a lesson in unlearning the culturally-driven ideas that create fear, hate, and devaluing of self. Larrieux fans have always enjoyed Larrieux’s ability to infuse refreshing social commentary in her disarming music. “Danger” is the latest of such works and does not disappoint.
For the final stretch, Amel brought back a couple of her classics, “Infinite Possibilities” and “INI.” But the crowd came alive with the ballad, “I Do Take,” which will undoubtedly become the new wedding song for 2014.
She followed that with the cherished “For Real,” and the show was rounded out with the iconic Groove Theory hit “Tell Me,” with the entire audience singing and dancing along.
The show was perfectly imperfect, with minor hiccups here and there. But members of the Amel faithful who have been patiently waiting for her return to the stage felt like it was well worth the wait. One concert-goer told me, “It’s amazing and I don’t know what it is about her, but now I feel totally inspired and ready to tackle my own challenges and goals. I have a big interview this week and this is just what I needed.”
We also got a chance to catch up with the singer after the show for an exclusive Made Woman Mag interview, so make sure to check out Part Two of this article later this week. But in the meantime, to get your own dose of music therapy, pick up Ice Cream Everyday. And if you’re in the Seattle or Washington D.C. area, make sure to check out one of her upcoming shows this month.