India.Arie’s music speaks loud and clear. The Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, guitarist and Atlanta native delivered a memorable Oct. 18 homecoming performance at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Arie performed material from her fifth LP, SongVersation, as well as her preceding critically acclaimed efforts. SongVersation, in particular, continues the honest performer’s ability to express her empowered, prideful thoughts on love (“Moved By You,” “Cocoa Butter” ), relationships, womanhood, success (“Life I Know”), family (“Flowers,” “Brothers’ Keeper”), spirituality and confidence (“Just Do You”).
During Arie’s performance of “Soulbird Rise,” her mother, Joyce Simpson, who also designed Arie’s white dress, joined the performer onstage to deliver rousing operatic vocals. Arie, smiling almost the entire two-and-a-half hour set, glided across the stage like a ballerina. Feeling the music, she even broke out doing the Bankhead Bounce.
Arie, periodically scrolling on her iPad, glowed as the audience sang along and screamed her name. At one point in the show, the vocalist shared candidly with the crowd that she overcame pressure from the music industry over her lyrical content. Often exhausted and overwhelmed, she stifled her songwriting just to please executives and critics.
“You can’t live your life based on other people’s expectations. My testimony is a process: breakdown, breakthrough, break out of the shell, elevate and fly. This is so cool. Thank you all for still being here,” says Arie.
Arie opened the show with a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” followed by her debut single, “Video.” When Arie performed “I Am Not My Hair,” she snatched off her head wrap and long extensions to show off her natural hair. Arie’s encore performance of “Ready For Love” featured the performer playing a flute solo.
Arie also performed “Little Things,” “The One,” “Back to the Middle,” “Simple,” “The Truth” and “Brown Skin.” A pixelated monitor flashing candlelight, pastoral vignettes and various quotes accompanied Arie in the rear.
“This is not a concert. We start [SongVersation] with a prayer. It’s being human. It’s about remembering and honoring the divinity inside of all of us,” says Arie.
Strumming and plucking acoustic soul MTV Unplugged/VH-1 Storytellers-style, the soft spoken yet spirited Arie made it a point to give the sold out audience solid instructions. “Watch the show with your eyes, ears and heart. Pay special attention to the lyrics. They’re pivotal to the mission we carry. Be open to see how it feels and how music and spirit can move you,” says Arie.
Christopher A. Daniel is a pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.