Review: ‘Meshell Ndegeocello’

Eyes closed, head titled slightly back so she leads with her chin, hands in loose fists about chest high, her shoulders shrugging rhythmically, Meshell Ndegeocello could have been shadowboxing on the House of Blues stage. Moving with a relaxed strut, she approaches her songs with the confidence of a good middleweight, powerful and wiry.

Eyes closed, head titled slightly back so she leads with her chin, hands in loose fists about chest high, her shoulders shrugging rhythmically, Meshell Ndegeocello could have been shadowboxing on the House of Blues stage. Moving with a relaxed strut, she approaches her songs with the confidence of a good middleweight, powerful and wiry.

She also exhibits a remarkable self-possession, and her performance — especially the material from her new album, “Comfort Woman” (Maverick) — trades heavily in atmosphere. The music builds slowly, developing into a rich, dub reggae haze. Vocal lines drop in and out of the mix, clipped guitars hit a James Brown groove, an organ swells spacily, with Ndegeocello’s swaggering bass occasionally muscling in. Sometimes, such as in the nimble, Sly Stone groove of “God Fear Money,” the elements snap together; other times, they simply dissipate, as in the flabby “Body.”

The unfocused nature of the performance might be explained in the song “Come Smoke My Herb”; there is no denying the show’s cannabis-scented languor.

With only two shows under their belt, the band members don’t seem completely at home with the new material (which makes up more than half the one-hour set), tiptoeing around the smoky grooves of “Love 1” when they should be putting their bodies behind the punch. By the time Ndegeocello and the band gets to New York, for two shows at B.B. King’s on Oct. 24 and 25, they should be more familiar with the songs.

Meshell Ndegeocello

House of Blues; 1,000 capacity; $27

Production

Presented by House of Blues Concerts and KCRW. Reviewed Oct. 10, 2003.

Cast

Band: Ndegeocello, Frank McComb, Jon-Jon Webb, Chris Dave, Sy Smith, K'alyn, Allen Cato.
Also appearing: Soulive.
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