At the start of her highly anticipated show at the sold-out Roxy on Monday night, singer-bassist Me’Shell Ndegeocello quickly brought a hush over the bustling house with the heart-wrenching title track from her new album, “Bitter.” It was a dramatic and pained opening for this often-harrowing but highly enjoyable 90-minute musical meditation on life, love and pain.
Few punches were pulled as the bald Ndegeocello — who played (with enthralling flair) her bass and sang her stinging lyrics sometimes while sitting and other times while standing in front of her microphone — railed in a series of profanity-laced outbursts against ex-lovers, racists and even the publicist at her label, Maverick Records, who twice was referred to in unflattering terms.
“Why am I compared to Janet Jackson and Lauryn Hill? Why am I not played on KROQ?” she asked with considerable attitude during a late-set portion that incorporated “Fool of Me,” another powerful song from “Bitter,” the singer’s third and most accomplished album.
A flexible and skillful five-piece band blended a wealth of styles and added nuance and muscle to the songs, which also included the funky and dirty “Satisfy” and the hypnotic, organ-fueled “Outside Your Door,” taken from Ndegeocello’s acclaimed 1993 debut, “Plantation Lullaby.”
Show, the first of two Roxy bookings that conclude a five-city U.S. mini-tour, ended on a decidedly positive and uplifting note as the singer, after apologizing to everyone (except the publicist) at Maverick, offered the healing “Grace,” an elegant affirmation that, in the end, love does conquer all.