First off, let’s start this lovely post with a fun fact: Marsha Ambrosius is my homegirl.
If you want to get technical, interrupt me in the middle of my review and question the credibility of said fun fact, I will admit that no, I haven’t even met her (yet). However, as I’ve been listening to her stories of love, sex and that one desire for a former lover’s new lady to cheat on him with a basketball player for the past fifteen plus years, I just feel like she’s the homie. Apparently quite a few other Atlantans felt the same way on Sunday night. At the first of her two sold out shows, I arrived at Center Stage an hour and fifteen minutes early. Even so, I only just grabbed one of the last spots in the parking garage and subsequently headed to the very back of the very long line that stretched down West Peachtree and wrapped around the 17th Street corner of the venue.
As Center Stage houses general admission shows, arriving early and standing in the rain had its benefits: I found available seating for me and three friends who arrived later. A sold out, general admission show guarantees that not everyone will get a seat and that quite a few people will have to stand directly in front of the stage. In my opinion, that is not a bad position to be in at a show, but I suppose if you came wearing heels and/or dress shoes expecting to sit, then yes. It is a bad position. It is at this time that I would like to point out to my friends – whom I will make read this, no doubt – that I endured quite a few irritated exhales and exclamations of ‘WOW, ALL THOSE SEATS ARE TAKEN? REALLY, FAM?’ just so that they could be comfortable.
The beginning of the show featured what has to be some sort of record of four opening acts – five if you include the wonderful DJ PNut. The versatile disc jockey doubled as a sort of host and kept the down time to an absolute minimum with his flawless mix of 80s, 90s and new millennium R&B and soul hits. By playing certified, time-tested crowd pleasers such as Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison”, E.U.’s “Da Butt” and Soul For Real’s “Candy Rain” before and in between acts, DJ PNut kept the audience moving and the energy in the venue high.
Opening first on stage was Wondaland’s stylish, skillful and stellar Roman GianArthur. His eclectic set included original songs such as “I-69”, an ode to mutuality, as well as his innovative takes on other artists’ songs. This included a successful cover of Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” and a beautiful mashup of Radiohead’s “High & Dry” and D’Angelo’s “Send It On”. With his level of talent, originality and continued support from the awe-inspiring Janelle Monáe, I would not be surprised if he one day soon also sold out multiple shows at Center Stage.
Next up was the very charming Jade Alston, who drove all the way from Philadelphia for the opportunity to open for Marsha Ambrosius. Accompanied only by her guitar-playing sister, Alston delighted the crowd with her music and several amusing and inspiring life stories – including the tale of that one time she got arrested in Atlanta. With a deep, rich tone similar to that of Toni Braxton and her unique brand of ‘folk soul’, Jade Alston may also be another artist to keep your eye on.
Rounding out the opening acts was George Tandy, Jr. With a singing and dancing rendition of The Temptations classic “My Girl” as well as his current single, “March” and other songs, Tandy proved to be not only a good musician, but also a good performer as well. In fact, he came into the studio the very next morning to show perform for Joyce Littel and our V-103 audience.
When it came time to introduce the headliner, it turns out she really needed no introduction. One should have guessed by the way she sauntered onto the stage without the usual opening pomp and circumstance – dressed in a modest blouse, thigh high boots and short shorts – that this was not going to be a typical show. The set was very loosely structured, which afforded Ambrosius and her talented band some creativity and freedom musically and otherwise. Ad libs and candid sexual anecdotes and innuendo filled the spaces between tunes, much to the delight of the crowd. On this Friend & Lovers Tour, the big question is can two people be great friends while also being intimate? There probably aren’t enough hours in the day to discuss that, but one thing is certain: as a performer, Ambrosius has the exceptional ability to make her audience members feel like her closest friends.
Vocally, Ambrosius has never sounded better. Performances of her biggest hits such as “Butterflies”, “Say Yes”, and a spiritual rendition of “Your Hands” were met with great enthusiasm and made that much better by her improvisations, piano playing and crowd interaction. However, it was her stunning performances of new material such as “Friends And Lovers” from the F-ck And Love “freEP” (which is what she calls a free EP) and new single “Run” that gave us the audience a shining example of which direction our ‘friend’ will be headed in the next few months leading up to the release of her new album.
With her set lasting only about an hour – really the only negative of the night – Ambrosius left the stage almost as quietly as she had arrived. With a catalog as broad as hers, it seems that this show served as more of a brief reminder of her capabilities as well as a peek into the new, more polished and cohesive material that she is so close to releasing this year. Needless to say, she left the crowd wanting more.
That’s fine. Like the good friend she’s led us to believe she is to us as fans through her lyrics, music and live performances, we’ll wait and probably give her two more sold out shows the next time she comes to our city.
To talk more music, upcoming concerts or to dish about what kind of craziness my homegirl Marsha Ambrosius was talking at this show, you can tweet me on the Twitter RIGHT CHEA.
– Khylen Steward, CBS Local