Erykah Badu Once Again Took Over The Bomb Factory In Deep Ellum For A Star-Studded Birthday Party, This Time With Even More Flair.
All photos by Hope Alvarez.
Heading into Saturday night at the Bomb Factory, we were all warned: This year’s version of Erykah Badu’s annual, high-profile birthday festivities at the venue were going to be different.
How so? Well, beyond the expected big-name guest music artists, this year’s deal also promised a slew of notable dance performers who’d been booked to perform interludes between the more traditional concert elements — a nod to this year’s deal being billing as “Love U – A Badu Bday Dance Party”. The idea, Badu’s camp assured all paying attention, was to turn this year’s affair into a more theatrical production, something a little elevated above the expected. Additionally, Badu took to social media in the build-up to the event to further assure crowds of the changes, alerting followers to the fact that this show would not run on “Badu time” but that it was a tightly scheduled affair that would promptly start at 8 p.m. and wrap up around midnight.
Walking into the venue shortly before that scheduled kickoff time, though, it became clear how tough a task that might prove to be: Flyers scattered around the venue suggested that the night was slated to be a whopping 14-act production.
— Central Track (@Central_Track) February 23, 2020
With great ambition comes great production nightmares, indeed: Despite Badu’s assurances to the contrary, the headliner herself would not hit the Bomb Factory stage until well after midnight, and her set did not conclude until right around 2 a.m.
Still, it’s clear that this night’s added elements approach were worthwhile. Yes, Badu’s fifth birthday bash hosted at the Bomb Factory was her most impressive to date.
As fans filtered into the building at the start of the night, that tone was immediately set by a crowd of dancers dressed in all white, who gathered in the middle of the Bomb Factory floor, dancing and chanting away as the crowds encircled around them as Badu visage was projected onto the massive screen behind the venue’s stage.
Most everything that followed felt intentional, if not quite prompt.
As more fans filtered into the space, the stage show itself began with more dancers — these ones lit up by spotlights that projected their shadows onto the sprawling backdrop behind them. A metaphor, perhaps, that bigger things would follow? Whether intentional, that much sure bore out — particularly in the sets performed by Tierra Whack and Thundercat, each of whom dazzled on this night, with the former’s bite-sized sonic offerings feeling tailor-made for this setting and the latter’s prodigal musicianship (abetted by some truly mind-blowing drumming courtesy of his North Texas-sprung drummer Mike Mitchell) blowing the minds of a crowd that wasn’t quite prepared for such a space-jazz onslaught. Badu’s daughter Puma Curry-Wright too shined, as the crowd cheered her through technical difficulties that initially plagued her on-stage debut.
Unfortunately, not everyone was so adored by this crowd: An unprepared Francis & The Light main support set that arrived just before Badu took the stage fizzled largely because it came without any backing band, and instead simply featured the solo artist struggling to find footing on a stage that felt like it swallowed his otherwise impeccable pop songwriting talents.
For the most part, though, the night’s theme struck its intended chord — and never more so than when Badu finally graced the stage herself after having worked the night as something of a hype woman earlier in the proceedings from the soundboard. Her offering kicked off in even jazzier than usual fashion, with born performer transforming the cavernous space into a cozy cabaret as she rattled off familiar hit after hit for a crowd that knew every word she uttered. As her own so extended, its formalities too receded, with Badu eventually ditching her top hat and fur coat for more comfortable attire, with braids rest on either side of the sweater she wore while warmly smiling as the crowd serenaded her with the expected closing song of the night: “Happy Birthday.”
That the proceedings ended so informally was perhaps the night’s most brilliant touch. It’s always cathartic to tear down walls — maybe even more so when they’re ones you’ve erected yourself.
As if anyone needed the reminder: The more things change, the more they stay the same.