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(Image by: Cris Lemon of January Rhayne Photography)
Popular Bay Area based vocalist Ledisi was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd estimated at well over 1,500 at the Grove Amphitheater of the Woodlake Inn this Sunday. Veteran R&B singer Eric Benét opened the show for the multitalented vocalist, who has been a mainstay on the Billboard charts since 2007.
“I love Ledisi,” stated Daisy Braxton, who arrived early in spite of the triple-digit heat to secure the best possible seat under the shade trees of the outdoor amphitheater.
“I love to see Ledisi in a more intimate setting because you get to experience more of her personality than in a larger setting,” said Braxton, who described herself as a huge Ledisi fan.
Ledisi put her personality on full display from the moment she burst onto the stage full of energy, singing “Raise Up,” a track from her most recent album “Pieces of Me.”
Ledisi is known for combing positive messages with her talented vocals. The audience responded by dancing along with Ledisi from their seats and in the aisles as she maintained the party style atmosphere with the single, “Higher Than This,” from her 2009 chart-topping album “Turn Me Loose.”
The audience was treated to coordinated dance steps with her backup singers and powerful vocals, in between Ledisi’s encouragements directed at the audience to become empowered in their lives.
With the crowd still on its feet, Ledisi turned a little sassy and saucy while performing the track “Shut Up” from her latest album.
Ledisi made sure to emphasize the song’s special message directed at doubters and naysayers by picking up a bullhorn, which she placed in front of the microphone.
(Image by: Cris Lemon of January Rhyane Photography) By the time Ledisi moved on to sing the hit single, “Bravo,” she had settled into her groove and demonstrated that she was in full command of the venue. The sincerity of her vocals left no doubt that her intention was to “celebrate life,” while encouraging members of the crowd to give themselves a hand for being able to make it through the ups and downs of everyday living.
Ledisi convincingly proved her worthiness of headliner status for a traditional summer “party-style” concert. The musical arrangements for several tracks were considerably more up-tempo than the studio versions that were previously released.
That certainly was the case for the track “Coffee,” whose funk inspired neo-soul accompaniment was introduced by the bass line from Snoop Dogg’s track, “G’z and Hustlas.”
During the intro to the song, Ledisi reminded the crowd that she hadn’t lost sight of her roots in the “hood” of East Oakland, much to the delight of the many family members, friends and loved ones from the Bay Area who were present in the audience.
The extended version of the rock- and blues-inspired track, “Knocking,” from the “Turn Me Loose” album featured a hard-hitting rock guitar solo. Guitarist Robby McDonald took center stage while Ledisi danced enthusiastically between verses. She then “explained herself” to the crowd by reminding them of musicians like LaBelle, the Staples singers and other “old school” groups that blazed the trails that she is now honored to continue down today.
(Image by: Cris Lemon of January Rhayne Photography)
After taking a few minutes to talk to the audience, Ledisi then slowed the tempo down by singing her 2007 hit single “In the Morning” from her album “Lost and Found.” The soulful accompaniment from her background singers now sitting behind her on stools and swaying in the beat set the mood for love songs as nightfall set in.
Ledisi demonstrated her vocal versatility by flawlessly singing both her verses and R&B singer Jahiem’s verses on her Billboard Top 40 R&B single “Stay Together.”
She followed up with the title track from her album “Pieces of Me.” The resounding cheers in response to the beginning bars of the Top 40 R&B signaled the crowd’s approval. Many audience members stood and sang along, while Ledisi poured her heart into the lyrics that expressed a variety of feelings from a woman’s point of view.
Ledisi completed her set with an extended version of her 2007 hit single “Alright.”
She spoke of her struggles as an aspiring vocalist and musician before letting the crowd know that family and friends, and especially her mother, who was in the audience, always were there to support her and reassure her everything in her life would indeed turn out alright.
Before introducing the members of the band, including the backup vocalists, Ledisi shared with the crowd three things she learned from experience. First was to “step out on faith.” Second was to “love yourself by any means necessary.” Last was to “be careful of who and what you allow in your inner circle.”
Ledisi then paid respects and showed her love of each individual who performed with her on stage. First Sara Williams took the microphone and sang a solo verse for the audience, who showed their enthusiastic appreciation.
Next was Denetra Moore, who took her turn with a solo verse. Moore is a current contestant on BET’s gospel singing competition program, “Sunday’s Best.” She is originally from Stockton and also had a large contingent of friends and family members in the audience supporting her.
Ledisi then introduced each of the musicians beginning with Anthony “Tony” Walker on keyboards, Robby McDonald on electric guitar, Lorenzo Johnson on organ and keyboards, Idris Davis on bass and Timothy Steele on the drums.
All of the musicians took advantage of their moment in the spotlight to demonstrate their individual skills as members of the tightly knit and well-rehearsed band.
(Image by: Cris Lemon of January Rhayne Photography) Opening act Eric Benét was not without his devoted fans, who attended the concert to see him perform live.
Mother Rose, proprietor of Underground Books in Oak Park, is a definite fan of Ledisi, but she came out to support Benét.
“It’s a warm summer night and I want to hear Eric Benét sing 'Real Love' to me,” stated Rose.
She was not to be disappointed as Benét demonstrated the talents that have kept him as a steady presence on the R&B Billboard Top 40 and Top 100 charts since 1996.
Benét hit the stage with a brief verse from his 2001 hit single, “Love Don’t Love Me,” before introducing himself to the audience, making a few jokes and commenting on the summer evening’s heat.
The audience immediately responded when Benét introduced the song “Spiritual Thang,” and informed the crowd that the 1996 hit song was also his first music video.
Benét reputation as an R&B singer with a strong following of female fans is well deserved based on his catalogue of hit songs based on love, relationships, and the celebration of the female mystique.
Benét’s smooth stage presence and easygoing personality provides the perfect complement to Ledisi for the B.G.T.Y. (Be Good To Yourself) summer tour.
Benét joked that radio deejays would often make confusing statements about him when introducing one of his first popular songs, “Femininity.” Benét went on to relate that he easily overlooked the sometimes strange comments because he just so thankful that the song was a hit.
The atmosphere of romance became palpable once Benét commenced singing “Real Love,” with heart-felt soprano vocals. The 2011 single is included on his recently released album, “The One.”
The video of the song features Manuela Testolini, whom he married in 2011. The couple welcomed their first child, baby girl Lucia Bella into their lives in December 2011.
Screams and sighs greeted Benét during the intro to the heart-wrenching ballad, “Sometimes I Cry.” At several points during the song audience members responded with cheers to Benét’s penetrating vocals as he flawlessly hit and held difficult high notes.
Benét then took the time to show appreciation and thank his fans for their support over the years.
(Image by: Cris Lemon of January Rhayne Photography) He then introduced backup singer Candice Boyd to the audience when asking her to join him on the song, “Spend My Life With You.” The track from his album, “A Day in the Life,” was a Billboard number 1 hit single on the R&B charts and a top 40 pop hit.
Benét commented that the song remains one of his most popular selections after more than a decade and is frequently included as a part of wedding ceremonies.
Benét then described his newly released single “Harriet Jones,” as a “please baby please,” feel good song.
After singing “You’re the Only One,” from his 2008 album, “Love and Life,” thanked the crowd after it appeared as if he completed his set.
Benét, who had long since loosened his tie and opened his vest in response to the warm summer night, then returned for an encore with his 1999 hit version of the song “Georgy Porgy,” originally recorded by Toto featuring Cheryl Lynn.
With Candice Boyd performing the verses sang by Faith Evans on his studio album, “A Day in the Life,” Benét’s extended version of his hit cover single included a rousing call and response with the audience who danced and grooved along with him to the up-tempo beat.
Benét took the time to introduce thank the members of his band Greg Collier (bass), Steven Bethany (electric guitar), Jonathan Richmond, (keyboards), and Wes McVickers (drums), along with showing appreciation to Candice Boyd for her efforts with the background and lead vocals.
A long line quickly formed near the merchandise table where Eric Benét patiently signed autographs and took photos with fans. A variety of items were available for sale including the latest music releases from Eric Benét and Ledisi, as well as copies of Ledisi's new book, Better Than Alright: Finding Peace, Love & Power.
(Image by: Cris Lemon of January Rhayne Photography) “I’ve been following Eric Benét for a long time,” stated Ed Jones who attended the concert with his wife Gloria.
“I knew of Ledisi, but I was especially impressed by the way she talked with the audience at the end,” said Jones.
Cecelia Orais attended the performance with her daughters, Delina Dream and Sharlena Brooks, enjoyed the show together as a family.
Ledisi’s music reaches all ages,” stated Orais while relaxing after the event waiting for the crowds and traffic to die down.
Local poet and community activist Terry Moore who served as the emcee and host for the event was also impressed by the turnout and warm welcome that Sacramento fans gave to both Eric Benét and Ledisi.
“It was an honor and a pleasure to participate in this event,” said Moore after the show.
“My wife and I were able to relax and enjoy one of the best shows that is touring the nation this summer right here at home,” stated Moore. “I’m looking forward to being a part of more events like this in the future,” he said.