Last night was a dream come true for longtime fans of Dave Chappelle and Erykah Badu (one of whom called it “the best show NYC has ever seen”). Their history as friends pre-dates her 2004 appearance on Chappelle’s Show, when the comedian took the music-and-comedy platform to new heights for hip-hop culture (watch below for old time’s sake). So it’s no surprise that she was initially the closer for his 9-show run before he added tonight’s finale performance.
If ever a “power couple” existed in this live performance format of laughter and lyrics, the songbird and the comic would top the list. Chappelle’s set remained consistently hilarious with a few tweaks from previous nights — further proof that he’s working out new bits and keeping his set fresh. Even if the jokes had all been verbatim recitation, it’s unlikely anyone would have noticed (or minded much). At ease on stage, and dressed to the nines with cigarette in hand, Chappelle’s conversational nature made the room feel just a bit smaller than it really was (we’ve covered his set extensively if you’d like to read more.) An hour of nonstop laughter filled the sold-out venue before Chappelle introduced Badu, calling her a “truly astounding” person.
Badu’s friend, Grammy-winning producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Om’Mas Keith, appeared next (and would return later for some comedic banter). He further complimented the “enigmatic” singer before she took the stage solo to sing “Out My Mind, Just in Time” from New Amerykah, Part Two (Return of the Ankh) accompanied only by piano and minimal strings. She effortlessly captivated the audience with just her voice and presence, but by the end of the ballad, the curtain drew to reveal the full orchestra behind her as she launched into “20 Feet Tall.”
Baduizm was represented next with “On & On,” followed by “… & On” from Mama’s Gun. Crowd favorites included the singalongs of “Appletree,” “Other Side of the Game,” “Love of My Life” and, of course, the anthemic “Tyrone.” She faux-closed her set with a cover of “Believe in Yourself” from The Wiz before returning to do an encore that ended with “Bag Lady” and a stunning rendition of “Next Lifetime.”
While her music often hints at the influence of greats like Miles and Billie occasionally dipped in a bit of hip-hop, the night also showcased the singer’s personality, humor, and ability to engage a crowd. From regal to silly, singing or rapping, in headscarf or top-hat — she held Radio City in the palm of her hand.
As Keith tells OKP of Badu:
“When Erykah calls, you come. I was sitting in the studio with new RCA artist Sam Dew when my phone rang. It was Erykah. She was like, ‘ay, you wanna be in my show at Radio City Music Hall? I need you to help me bring some Vaudeville to the stage.’ I was like… ‘Um, yeah!!!’
I marvel at her vision and seemingly endless ability to create and innovate. I’d pretty much do anything for my sister.”
Given the reaction of fans who left the show and their informal reviews via social media (“she SMASHED IT!”), it’s safe to bet most everyone present would do anything for another night like the one we all experienced courtesy of Chappelle and Badu’s boundless talents. More Chappelle’s Show throwback below–tonight is night 10 and the very last night of Chappelle’s souled-out Radio City run. Do what you have to, but get a ticket by any means necessary!