Wanda Jackson and Rosie Flores
Sexist though the thought may have been, some of the crowd waiting -- and waiting, well past the announced starting time -- for Wanda Jackson and Rosie Flores's show at the Black Cat on Friday wondered which one was being a diva.
Neither, it turns out: Jackson was stuck in traffic. Finally, after about 45 minutes, the perky Flores and her band got into a high-octane rockabilly groove and kept it going for about an hour and a half. Her set was deliberately upbeat -- she even turned down a request for the slower "Bandera Highway," though as the set list ran down, she played it after all. Butch Hancock's "Boxcars," the highlight of her set, drew its eerie power from the sinister sounds she coaxed from her Epiphone guitar.
Finally, Jackson took the stage -- after an apology from her manager-husband for their tardiness. Resplendent in fringes, diamonds, eye shadow and comfy shoes, Elvis's ex-girlfriend -- not so much pushing 70 as ignoring it -- took over the room. Her stage-wise demeanor was matched by her voice.
It still comes out like silk, with an appealing little cling. Backed appropriately by Flores and her band, Jackson offered a sort of musical history, with her hits (the freakish country-rockabilly hybrid "I Gotta Know") mixed in with numbers including a slinky rendition of Jerry Lee Lewis's "It'll Be Me." What little discomfort there was during Jackson's tale of her salvation by Jesus was dissolved by a sing-along of "I Saw the Light" -- just three songs after the raucous "Riot in Cellblock #9."
-- Pamela Murray Winters
It may never be possible to see or hear R&B singer Faith Evans without recalling her late husband, the Notorious B.I.G. (born Christopher Wallace). But the New Jersey singer has managed to distance herself a bit from the legendary rapper, who was slain in 1997.
Evans has four gorgeous albums to her credit, and has a brand-new whittled-down physique. But although she has worked so hard to escape her husband's shadow, Evans revisited the days when she was Mrs. Biggie Smalls at Dream on Friday night.
Calling herself "The First Lady" didn't help matters, either. The title, which is both the name of her latest recording and a leftover label from her days as the songstress of Bad Boy Records; the name suggests a woman overshadowed by a powerful husband.
Then, when her mellifluous voice peaked with the sweet simple ballad "I Love You" and the sexy slow drag of "No Other Love," Evans broke into a mini-tribute to Wallace. Her band played the remix of his hit "One More Chance," which she provided background vocals for, while the crowd chanted "R.I.P B.I.G."
Earlier, though, when Evans sang "Faithful," "Faithfully" and "Keep the Faith," hers was the only name on anyone's lips.
-- Sarah Godfrey
Sugar Water Festival at Merriweather
If ever there were a collective that could eradicate the need for whiny self-help books and soul-stripping makeovers that are foisted upon women, it would be Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Queen Latifah.
At the Sugar Water Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, the popular artists cooked up a deliciously simple syrup from the joys and struggles of women, encompassing Latifah's girl raps, Scott's musings on wedded bliss and Badu's reflections on motherhood. After the British hip-hop/soul group Floetry warmed things up, Latifah, Scott and Badu emerged together to sing the Jones Girls' "Nights Over Egypt."
Then Latifah started in with such standards as "Hello Stranger" and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" from her jazz/R&B project "The Dana Owens Album." She also offered plenty of her regal, feminist hip-hop, including "Ladies First" and "U.N.I.T.Y."
Scott's biggest shouts came not when she interrupted love songs to admire her wedding ring. Her happy marriage was the cause of more cheers when Scott choked up before the first note of "He Loves Me," a song written for her husband, DJ and graphic artist Lyzel Williams. And after belting out lyrics about a love triangle on "Gettin' in the Way," Scott got applause for declaring that such confrontations were behind her.
Badu, as always, played the role of a futuristic flower child with a street swagger, dropping strange synthesizer sounds and unexpected expletives into her set in equal measure. The strongest parts of her performance captured both elements of her personality, such as an extended version of "Other Side of the Game," the lament of a woman having a baby with a drug dealer, and the street corner saga of "Danger."
The trifling-man-blues of "Tyrone" would've brought down the house, but Badu didn't go for the cheap standing ovation. She instead closed with the lay-your-burdens-down optimism of "Bag Lady."
-- Sarah Godfrey