Especially in the summer, free outdoor concerts are nice recreation to enjoy the season with friends and family. Laidback concerts by local garage bands while grabbing a beer. Mini-performance by popular musicians…Either way, a positive benefit to enjoy the music and the season.
However, “free” isn’t equal to “low quality”. For the musicians, the stage is a place to appeal their talent and professionalism no matter free admission or not, pro or amateur. Could be an opportunity to climb the stardom by gaining many new fans or fall down. While there are many musicians who perform average level, there are also musicians who provide equivalent quality with a full concert or even higher at the free concerts.
H.E.R.’s performance at New York City’s Lincoln Center, as a part of its annual “Out of Doors” free summer concert series, was definitely a good example that high professionalism would win at any circumstance. A contrast with the flat and ordinal performance by a supporting act from U.K., Samm Henshaw.
From the first song, H.E.R.’s multi-talent was unstoppable along with her powerful performance. Many audience’s recognition as just a singer-songwriter was gradually changed that night. H.E.R was hopping into the different instrumentals, from microphone to guitar, keyboard, bass, percussion…and each was above satisfactional level. Especially, the guitar! How many audiences did know H.E.R. was also a technical guitarist? Her guitar skill was more impressive than the majority of guitarists out there. “Hard Place” was outstanding not only by the beautiful chorus and string ensemble but also by H.E.R.’s stunning solo.
Showing ultra-high musicianship from the beginning could actually be risky and end with a boast, but the R&B singer from California’s Bay Area knew how to use her talent to catch New Yorkers’ ears and eyes instantly. The jamming version of “Carried Away” was a good start with more bouncing than the original, that gave more dramatic and dynamic effects than Samm Henshaw. The sound was clear, background musicians were tight, but most importantly, she didn’t forget the most important and basic principles; H.E.R. was a singer and entertainer. Her wide range skills were effective to enhance her good music on the stage and indeed succeeded to make the audience thrillingly scream from the first song.
And oh, her voice was beautiful. H.E.R’s voice during the live performance was richer and more emotional than the recording. Especially, her vocal performance was so vivid with “Focus”, her smash hit with the lyric that many adults struggled in their relationships. H.E.R.’s voice touched and grabbed the male audience’s hearts including mine right away. Who fool would ignore a lady if she sang to focus so soulful? I can’t. Very impressive.
Though H.E.R.’s major career started successfully with Grammy Award and a gold-certified album, she surely knew what the free concert meant. Even the venue was very packed to see a popular musician, not all audiences were her fans. A free concert would attract many curiosities. And Lincoln Center was in the middle of a big city. A variety of people would come to just enjoy the music and summer weekend. When H.E.R. asked the audience how many people experienced her concert before, there were a certain amount of cheers. When she asked the next question about how many people had NOT been to her concert, unfortunately, the voice was bigger. That was still her reality of that night even she recently had an arena tour supporting Erykah Badu. She was aware of it. The song track was not only from her own songs but also the mixture of well-known covers, such as “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill and “Make It Rain” by Foy Vance/Ed Sheeran.
But the most popular cover and the highlight of the night, that succeeded to strongly impress her, was definitely “Purple Rain”. Yes, Prince’s song but WITHOUT vocal. H.E.R. took all lead guitar, and I was drunk by her emotional guitar performance. Not many guitarists can touch the audience’s emotional strings like vocal performance but she did…It was just like Prince played the guitar (and I saw her influence from Slash of Guns N’ Roses as well). The effect was totally dramatic.
Her strategy of all instrumental, voiceless “Purple Rain” had one clear message.
Let the music speak.
And her message was successfully received by her existing fans and many new fans. All knocked out and drown by her stunning guitar performance then sang one of the most known choruses of the world along with H.E.R.’s guitar. Music connected all of us. Music blossomed excitement in each of us. Music gave us positiveness. Music gave us dreams. And those power of music was the fundamental reason for H.E.R.’s clear message that night, just like the concert title.
Save the Music.
If they weren’t the beauty of music, what else?
New Yorkers were fortunate to witness H.E.R.’s mission accomplishment at that night’s free concert. Nobody would say “I used to know her”. H.E.R. is the next big thing.
OVERALL POINTS: 93/100
- Performance: ★★★★★
- Excitement/Fire: ★★★★★
- Vocal: ★★★★+3/4
- Instrumental: ★★★★★
- Sounds: ★★★★★
- Song orders: ★★★★★
- Stage setting+lighting: ★★★
- Better than recordings: ★★★★+1/2
- Chemistry with the audience: ★★★★★