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Soul music’s uniqueness lies in its ability to transcend racial and cultural boundaries… it’s all about the emotion—words spoken in truth by the Philly native Musiq Soulchild. If the name isn’t proof enough that this man has roots in soul, his recent performance at the Howard Theatre sealed the deal.

Setting the mood was the beautiful Avery Sunshine who presented a medley of popular neo-soul covers and a few of her original songs. While her voice may not be as impactful or unique as those whom she paid homage to, her personality on-stage resonated with the audience.

With a voice that brings to mind that of Chrisette Michele and Ledisi, she floats about her notes. Unfortunately, her voice doesn’t quite touch that sentimental button these women achieve. In terms of her lyricism, she comes off quite genuine—there exists a level of, “damn… I know exactly where’s she’s coming from!”

After a decent set, by a decent performer, the sold-out house, truly reached its SOUL’d out moment once Musiq took the stage. From the break, the 11-time Grammy-nominated musician came with an energy level at a solid 100. Here is where the disconnect began to occur.

Musiq as an artist shines on his slower tempo’d tracks; his runs are his most dynamic, heart-wrenching moments. For this performance, he opted to retool the arrangements to give them more of a party feel. This left the majority of the venue, save for the slice of the crowd this writer inhabited, in a bewildered state—while my small section sang aloud and truly grooved, the others remained at a steady sway.

To his credit, he traveled between his six studio albums with ease, despite when one became a fan, there was at least one song to sing along to. From the day one jam “Love” to “Forthenight” and the more recent “Lovecontract” his progression as an artist was felt. As an artist, he has been able to remain faithful to his style of music—it’s unfortunate how often R&B/Soul singers sacrifice their essence in favor of commercial appeal.

While his block-party approach may have had good intentions and was certainly entertaining, it would have been nice had he fleshed out at least one or two of his slower songs. The hurriedness by which he sang songs like “Dontchange” and “Halfcrazy” left much to be desired… it’s the runs and falsettos that really make his music what it is. As much as it hurts to admit, it was the inherent cool and industry status that redeemed this show from being subpar.

Musiq Soulchild is truly an underrated artist, and despite a confusing delivery, the soul was very much alive and felt by everyone leaving post show. He continues to make music to make love to and fall in love with—here’s hoping he sees another decade of hits (did I mention he’s been around since 2000?). Get yourselves familiar with this man if you haven’t already; his most recent release, MusiqInTheMagiq (2011) is fully available on iTunes and Spotify… not to mention he just released a book entitled 143 Love According to Musiq.

Until (On My Radio)
(Motown Medley)
Yes/Sweet Love (Anita Baker cover)
Just Friends (Sunny)

Mary Go Round