Soulfest Brisbane will be one of those concerts that I will vividly remember in 20 years time as the Woodstock of neo-soul and hiphop.
I had long given up on seeing many of these artists live in Australia, my only hope being catching them on tour while on holiday in the USA. When I heard the announcement of Soulfest and the almost unbelievable lineup I rejoiced with unbridled joy – but then the skepticism set in. Being a seasoned gig goer I have seen many music festival lineups where one or several artists would cancel at the last minute, were wrongly promoted as performing, or just don’t show up. Was this too good to be true?
I am pleased to report that every international headline act that was advertised as performing on the bill showed and proved on the 25 October in Brisbane, Australia exactly why they boast 52 Grammys combined.
The Venue And Crowd
Soulfest was held at The Riverstage at QUT with the day kicking off at 12.00pm and finishing up at 10.00pm.
It was a very hot day and the venue didn’t really offer much in the way of shade which led unprepared patrons to create makeshift hats out of bags and shirts. I must admit I was kind of annoyed that people were allowed to bring in umbrellas and chairs when the rules on the venue’s website state you can’t and were confiscated in other shows I’ve been to there. There weren’t any pass outs so I couldn’t run back to the car get these items even if I wanted to. The venue should be consistent in it’s application of policies.
Aside from that hiccup there were some excellent food vans onsite offering BBQ and Southern food to the delight of my soul food loving taste. There was a free water station a real oasis in the desert – I chugged a whopping 4.5 litres of H2O over the 10 hour period – it was hot as hell!
Many patrons including us bought along a picnic blanket to chill out on throughout the day. The stage is based at the bottom of a sloping hill making it perfect for viewing the onstage action.
The crowd was a really eclectic mix of ages from people in their 20’s right up to their 60’s. There were plenty of fellow brothas and sistas at the gig along with white people and Polynesians, proving soul music speaks to people of any age and race.
There was a good number of people at Soulfest Brisbane, there was plenty of space for people to have a seat, relax and enjoy the festivities and for those who wanted to get down and get close to the artists near the front of the stage. It really was a perfect venue to facilitate both types of concert goers for a neo-soul gig.
Leela James is famous for tracks such as “Music,” “Tell Me You Love Me,” “Say That” and the recent “Fall For You.” One year older than me, one of only two female international soul acts, at 31 years this beautiful soul sista opened the day as the first international act and what a perfect opener!
James’ voice was smooth like the greats who inspired her such as Gladys Knight, Toni Braxton and intermittently punchy like the great James Brown.
She repped her hometown with a Los Angeles cropped tee, black pinstriped pants and a big ass afro highlighted with red and accented with the same afro pick that I own!
Dissatisfied with the level of audience turntness – Leela took matters into her own hands left the stage and encouraged the crowd to dance with her as she grooved barefoot while belting out her hits. Leela James’ set was high energy and really set the tone for a truly uplifting soulful day.
My Mum and I were probably the most excited to see Anthony Hamilton live at Soulfest, Brisbane. I believe Anthony has probably the most unique sounding tone to his voice out of all those listed on the bill.
Hamilton took the stage in a black hat with white clothing accompanied by his uber talented backup singers and dancers. From those opening moments till the set’s send Anthony had us hooked with his beautiful and funky vocals complimented by his high energy stage presence and dancing.
I needed to hear “Charlene” and “Cornbread, Fish And Collard Greens” – Anthony delivered in full on both occasions. He also sang “Cool,” from memory I believe he played “Prayin For You/Superman,” “Sucka For You” mixed with Run DMC’s “It’s Like That” and “Best Of Me.”
It was on Anthony’s set that I first realised there were audio problems when a loud screeching resounded throughout the venue. This continued on throughout the day and was truly unacceptable. Like a true pro – Hamilton continued on like nothing happened. It wasn’t “Cool” (pun totally intended) that this audio fail repeatedly interfered with the soulful vibe of the day.
I would have loved to have seen him perform one of his biggest hits “Comin’ From Where I’m From,” “Lucille,” and “Chyna Black” – he’s got so many hits to choose from! Given the crowd’s hype and engagement level Hamilton really should have had a longer set.
A true standout of Soulfest, Brisbane and I sincerely hope this isn’t the last that I will see of him in Australia. He has an abundance of fans here and given the turnt reception of his performance on Saturday – a great number of new ones.
Unfortunately for most of Queen Angie’s set I was waiting for my hot wings to be made. Don’t judge me – a girl had to eat!
Angie looked gorgeous in blue and did not fail to impress with her truly buttery voice. Again from what I recall between hanging out for hot wings she performed “No More Rain (In This Cloud),” “Brotha,” “More Than A Woman,” “I Wanna Thank Ya” and an incredible reggae and Latin alternate version of “Wish I Didn’t Miss You.”
A fun fact for all y’all – did you know that Angie Stone had a child with D’Angelo in 1998 by the name of Michael?
Stone threw some fairly warranted shade earlier on in the tour regarding the choice to close with Maxwell as opposed to former flame D’Angelo and the lack of female artists slated to perform at Soulfest.
I’d have to say I was pretty surprised to hear that Maxwell was closing too, but then again Maxwell has had more recent releases over his music career while D’Angelo dropped off the public music scene after 2000’s “Voodoo.” Given the crowd’s lack lustre reception to D’Angelo’s rather indulgently long versions of his songs – in retrospect I think Maxwell as the closer was probably the better choice.
On her second point – I agree wholeheartedly. The first thing I noticed when I saw the advertised bill was the notable absence of both Erykah Badu (long considered the queen of neo-soul) and Jill Scott. I’ve seen both women perform live on separate occasions and my mind was blown at how talented they were. Badu’s absence was especially felt when Common took the stage, it’s almost impossible to separate the two from one another given they recorded together in the soul group Soulquarian and once dated.
Musiq Soulchild was another artist I was psyched to see being a huge fan of his 2007 album Luvanmusiq. I didn’t realize he was that short until he came on stage! He switched up songs halfway through on a couple of occasions possibly because the crowd didn’t know them. To my delight he played “B.U.D.D.Y,” “Just Friends (Sunny)” and “Love.” Overall it was a really good performance aside from the odd audio issue.
Mos Def/Yasiin Bey took the stage rocking red and black to a really hyped audience. I know the bigger hits from Mos Def but admittedly I haven’t followed his career as closely as the other headliners.
According to AUReview this was the set Mos sung in Melbourne and it sounds very similar that in Brisbane. A notable absence was “Bonita Applebaum.”
“Lord Lord Lord”
“The Boogie Man Song”
“Juicy (Biggie Cover)”
“It Was A Very Good Year (Frank Sinatra Cover)”
“Ms Fat Booty”
“The Panties/Passin’ Me By (The Pharcyde Cover)”
He definitely showcased his outstanding MC skills – his raps were seamless and his freestyle rhyme during Common’s set was truly memorable each bouncing off one another.
Mos Def spoke about how he’d had a bad day yesterday but how today he was really feeling the crowd and loving the weather. He shared quite a few deep and spiritual thoughts with everyone which was a special treat for fans.
Aloe Blacc really hyped the crowd with his hits “I Need A Dollar” and “I’m The Man” to name a few. Having seen him before it was great to see how his performance has improved and to hear his life story and how music was a strong driving force in his life.
Common was the hip hop artist I was most hyped to see perform out of the Soulfest Brisbane lineup. I own the majority of his albums and I was truly thrilled to see him perform some of my favourite songs such as “Come Close” and “The Light.” Common proved just why he has such a huge following and how he’s managed to remain musically relevant over the years. One lucky girl got taken up onto the stage and serenaded by him to “Come Close” – I could have killed to be her!
The set list from recollection was as follows:
“The Corner (“Where I’m From” sample)”
“Make Her Say”
“Get ‘Em High/You Don’t Know My Name (Alicia Keys Cover)”
“Love of My Life (Erykah Badu Cover)”
“I Used to Love H.E.R”
Freestyle with Yasiin Bey
“Speak My Piece/Diamonds”
“The Light VS So Far to Go”
Common’s performance was definitely a festival highlight – plus, he’s very easy on the eye right girls?
D’Angelo’s set and performance divided many, I heard cheers and jeers from the audience.
I am admittedly a huge fan of the man’s work his LP “Voodoo” being one of my all time favourite albums which I think everyone should have in their collection. D’Angelo had an incredible nine person band – I spotted at least three guitarists (including him) and his elevated keyboard platform in the centre of stage – his performance was definitely about the diversity of sound and as much funk as humanly possible. Now, funk isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – it certainly wasn’t my mother’s – she didn’t like his set at all. I am a Prince groupie so naturally I am a fan of the musical genre.
Some audience member’s felt that he was too self indulgent playing extended versions of his songs and were waiting for the track to finish and for a new one to begin. As you can see below his set is very short due to the fact he really extended the performance length of the songs.
There were also jibes from the crowd concerning his weight gain- his physique wasn’t nearly as sculpted as it was in the iconic “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” music video where he stood there shirtless the whole video boasting a six pack and bulging back and arm muscles. But hey, who looks like they do when they were in their 20’s without a hell of a lot of work? It is rumoured that one of the contributing reasons he left the music industry for such a long period was that he was tired of being objectified after that video came out. Looking like that is extremely hard work to maintain for many.
I thoroughly enjoyed his musicianship throughout the performance (and sexy looking black and metallic accented guitar) – he was an artist to see on my bucketlist which I can gladly cross off.
Below is D’Angelo’s Melbourne set which may differ from the Brisbane one:
“Miss Lucifer’s Love (Funkadelic Cover)”
“Left & Right”
“One Mo’ Gin”
“Always In My Hair (Prince Cover)”
“Untitled (How Does It Feel) ”
What woman hasn’t swooned upon listening to “This Woman’s Work” and melted at Maxwell’s accompanying good looks? One of the few falsetto champions in the soul/R&B genre Maxwell took the stage in a sharp suit looking a million bucks and if that wasn’t enough he starts grooving on stage and at one point – doing the splits! Is there anything this crooner can’t do? Talk about swag – this man could charm the pants off the most unavailable of women.
He genuinely was surprised that the crowd knew the lyrics to his songs – it was his first time coming out to Australia – and hopefully won’t be his last.
Unfortunately I left before his set was over but I did catch him singing “This Woman’s Work,” and “Bad Habits.”
Overall, Soulfest 2014 was well organised, in a great venue apart from a few audio issues at the beginning of the day. I am so grateful to the organisers, promoters, record labels and PR people for making this happen in Brisbane without any act cancellations and allowing us to enjoy these incredibly talented musicians many of whom we had long given up on seeing in Australia.
Word on the street is that there will be a Soulfest 2015. Fingers crossed that will eventuate – I know my Mum would love to see LSG, personally I’d love to see Erykah Badu again.
Who would you like to see for Soulfest 2015 or what did you think of Soulfest 2014? Please let me know in the comments below!