Welcome back to Concert Daily’s coverage of the 2015 Essence Music Festival where we want you to join in helping us to #BringTheLove. We got an earlier start today so that we could go check out what was happening over at the convention center. As ALWAYS in the Summer down in Nola, it was BLAZING hot with crazy humidity, so we were ready to get into the AC over at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Granted we love the concerts over at the Superdome, the family oriented activities during the day are what set ESSENCE Fest apart from any other festival.
Upon walking inside Hall B, we could just feel the family atmosphere in the air. Parents walking around with their kids to the different interactive booths, best friends walking in groups to check out items for sale in the vendor row, and young couples holding hands while watching many of the free entertainment options were a couple of things that we observed. There’s one thing that we can’t forget, and that’s the food vendors! If you are a foodie, then this is the one official spot that you need to come to get your eat on. With various food vendors setup from different culinary styles to choose from, there was something for everyone’s pallet.
You couldn’t help but to walk down every inch of this place and find something that wasn’t happening. The Coca-Cola booth was jumping the ENTIRE time with numerous dance contests and people on the middle of the floor doing the Wooble, all while giving away free Coke products to help cool them down. The folks over at State Farm conducted one of the funniest karaoke sessions I had ever seen. Many reality TV stars were in the building as well, speaking on different panels that ranged from how to be a successful entrepreneur, to what’s it REALLY like being on reality TV. Out of all the panels that were occurring, the one that stuck out to us the most was the “Women In Media” that featured Loni Love, April Ryan, Dja “Déjà vu” Parker and Shirley Strawberry. Since we are a media entity, it was very rewarding to see black women who are already deeply involved in the industry give their views and accounts of how things really work, also including some “tokens” for young women who may want to seek out a career in the entertainment realm. Towards the end of the day, we headed over to the McDonald’s booth where R&B artist Case was about to hit the stage. He performed many of his older hits that had people singing along to every note, mixed in with some new music that he’s about to release.
Now on to the main event! The third night of the concert series is the one that mostly everyone has been talking about, and for good enough reason. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott was on the bill to make her return to music tonight on the mainstage of Saturday’s Essence Festival. The crowd tonight was noticeably younger, due to the likes of Missy, Usher, Sevyn Streeter, Elle Varner, Wale, Mali Music and Esperanza Spalding. Don’t get it twisted though, there was still enough music to go around for everybody, including the “grown folks” who dominated Friday’s crowd because Common, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Raheem DeVaughn and Kool Moe Dee were very much in the building.
First to take the mainstage was Academy Award Winner Common, who walked out to a crowd that was now starting to file into the venue. His set was relatively simple, outfitted in a plain jacket and jeans backed by a single background singer, a keyboardist, drummer and a DJ. While performing, he pulled a female fan up onstage to now be a part of show; this is the stuff that most fans dream of. What he did while she was with him, was most unique. He took the opportunity to get some basic particulars about the woman, whose name was Ashley, and began to form a freestyle rap centered around her while kissing her on the neck. Gazing into Common’s eyes and blushing, you could tell Ashley was both slightly embarrassed and extremely flattered at the same time, wouldn’t you be as well if you got pulled onto a huge stage at a national event and had a song tailor made to you?
Fan footage courtesy of Sonya Jenkins on Youtube
It would be so coincidental that the next artist to take the stage would be Erykah Badu, who we all know is one of Common’s famed exes. Much to her usual self, she was late to the stage, but don’t be too harsh on her, because “she’s an artist, and she’s sensitive about her sh*t”. It’s fine Ms. Badu, your fans are used to it now and don’t care because you’ll give an awesome show anyways. If you’ve never seen an Erykah Badu show, then you’re in for a treat. This was actually my first time seeing her live too, so I couldn’t wait for her to begin. She’s not your usual “artist” type of artist, there’s not a lot of pomp and circumstance involved with her, nor does it even feel like you’re at a show. The vibe I experienced was more like I was kicking it with one of my home girls who have NO problem with keeping it all the way 100. Dressed in nothing a jean jumper, oversized shirt and a big hat, she shot straight from the hip. All the hits that we know and love were pitch perfect and on point, but she was quick to let the band know when they messed up a few times, and got them back in order. Her last and final song of the night was the clever “Tyrone”, and watching this live felt pretty much like the music video for it. Women in the audience were singing the song like the lyrics had some true meaning in their lives.
Fan footage courtesy of WeRGlobal TV on Youtube
Tonight we didn’t get a chance to go upstairs to the superlounges, but it was cool. None the less, we know that they were all rocking with sounds of good tunes and people busting out the doors because they were so jammed packed. Sevyn Streeter is known for her high energy performances, who unlike many of her R&B contemporaries, doesn’t just give you a cover of a past song, she totally remixes songs to make them her own. Elle Varner was sure to have the Verizon Now Playing Superloung rocking while giving her fans a musical refill over and over. You also had the “Love King” Raheem DeVaughn helping the fellas out, by singing and serenading the ladies in the crowd to help get them a little “warmed up” for later. A blast from the past also performed, one of the comeback kids we were talking about yesterday. New Orleans own Mystikal took over the Art of Hip-Hop Superlounge stage. It’s been a minute since the world has seen Mr. “Danger” take the stage, but being that he was in his hometown, we know that the love was all there and he was well received.
Now back to the mainstage, and most def the time that everybody had all been waiting for, and if not, I know it was the time that I had been waiting for. At this time, it was 11:08 PM, which is rather late in terms of your normal concert, but people did not care because Missy Elliott was about to hit the stage. In her 20+ years as an artist, this was her very first ESSENCE Fest performance, and boy did she not disappoint. For anyone living under a rock who has never seen a live performance from Missy, all you need to expect is high energy fun from start to finish. From the moment that her intro started to play and before she even stepped out, everyone jumped out of their seats in excitement. Dressed in a one piece leather jumpsuit with a peace sign adorned on the front, a blinged out mic that said “M E” and backed by 8 dancers, a DJ and hype man, she went straight for the jugular, smashing through hits like “Gossip Folks”, Supa Dupa Fly”, “Hot Boys” and “Get Ur Freak On”.
Fan Footage courtesy of Sonya Goss on Youtube
At one point during her show, she stopped to catch a breath and looked out into the audience and said “I want to be down there with the party”, so she hopped of stage and told security to open up the barriers and let her get in the crowd. Everyone on the floor went wild as she literally traversed the entire floor of the Superdome while singing her hit “Work It”, making her way to the far reaches of the back floor while legions of fans followed her around and got their selfies in. THIS is the type of thing that sets her apart from many other artists; she’s not scared to get close to the people. Her set had been running pretty smoothly until she got back on stage to get into her next song, “Pass The Dutch”, when at one point she was plagued with audio technical difficulties that lasted for a few minutes, which wouldn’t be the first issue of the night.
Next she brought out one of her artists to the stage, to also help serve as a dress change. Not many people at the Superdome were familiar with Sharaya J, but ooooh I certainly was, because I’m a fan of hers. This young up and coming rapper has such spunk, individuality and creativity that are missing from the rap game right now, so it’s a breath of fresh air to see her out here living her dream. She breezed through two of her songs all while dancing along with two backup dancers. My only gripe is that she didn’t perform my favorite song of hers entitled “Takin’ It No More”.
Fan footage courtesy of Scorpiokid1122 on Youtube
Elliott’s set was ended prematurely after she brought Jazmine Sullivan to perform their hit “Holdin’ You Down” and then her mic cut off as she was walking and the stage went dark, then a few moments later house music started playing and the video screens were playing promo footage. It was clear that Missy’s show was over, and fans were pissed.
This mishap was not a good segue at all for Usher, who was about to hit the stage. People were already in their feelings and some had already started to leave the arena. Usher is a major headliner in his own right, but to follow up such an energetic show like Missy’s, he was going to have to pull out all of the stops. Recently I had the chance to see Usher on his “The UR Experience” Tour, where he used full production, pyro, lights and a army of dancers and figured his EMF show would be similar, wellll I was wrong. The show that he gave was extremely stripped down compared to his regular fanfare. There was no major production value to the show, no multiple costume changes, and only two backup dancers who occasionally popped on stage. Despite all of this, his show was still solid. He performed a number of his hits, but was mainly just standing there at the mic singing, even on the songs that had high octane dance routines to them. We heard people in the crowd complaining saying that “he’s making us sing most of the song, HE’S the one on stage!”. The part of his show that got everyone hype was when he brought out Wale and they performed his hit “Matrimony”, which Usher sings the hook.
Fan footage courtesy of Scorpiokid1122 on Youtube
At the end of Usher’s show, people were leaving out, still hot about the Missy fiasco when Michelle Ebanks walked out on stage and wanted to issue a public apology to Missy, and brought the rapper back on stage. “I’m sorry I was cut off,” she said. “I came here to give 100 percent. I was cut off. I was disappointed. I thank you for coming out. I just wanted to say a proper good night, because I wasn’t allowed that earlier,” Elliott said. “It wasn’t me. I hope y’all enjoyed yourself. Once again, the fact that ESSENCE was big enough to realize their mistake and to smooth it over with not just the artist, but the audience shows that they are every so thankful for the people that support them.