Glaciers move faster than neo-soul’s progress, due chiefly to a lack of an icon to validate the movement. Distaffs Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and India.Arie have garnered precious Grammy metal, and D’Angelo seems to be sticking by his plan of releasing an album every five years. Then there’s Musiq Soulchild, perhaps the strongest candidate yet to wrest D’Angelo’s unofficial crown. Musiq and the wistfully beautiful Vivian Green (both from Philadelphia, where the movement is strongest) exhibited power and a firm grasp of the concept by staying true to their soul roots and adding a muscular mixture of rock and funk to their House of Blues gig.
Musiq, a neo-soul veteran with two platinum albums this millennium — “Aijuswanaseing” (I Just Want to Sing) and “Juslisen” (Just Listen) — has surpassed D’Angelo as the genre’s singular and defining voice. Clad in a white T-shirt, metal-studded jeans and signature sunglasses, Musiq glowed as he blasted through a slew of urban radio hits, including “You and Me,” “Girl Next Door,” “Halfcrazy,” “Future” and “Don’t Change.”
Musiq took the slow climb in his nearly hour-and-a-half set to the real roots of the movement –body-twitching, hard rocking funk reminiscent of George Clinton’s glory days with Bootsy Collins, Eddie Hazel and Bernie Worrell. Not that there was anything wrong with the slower introspective “Future” or “Motherfather,” but when his band was unleashed –with everyone moving spasmodically with Soulchild — the energy level shot through the roof.
Green, arguably the best candidate to fill the hole vacated by the long-absent Anita Baker, came out swinging on her powerful opener, “Fanatic.” On record, the song is a bouncy ditty, but Green’s competent band turned it into a tour de force. A former background vocalist for Scott, she’s blessed with a voice that soared effortlessly.
Green’s debut album “A Love Story” is an exploration into relationships in which she lyrically spills her guts, especially on the emotionally wrenching “Final Hour,” about a man who chased her, corralled her, then coldly ignored her. Her endearing vulnerability and moving vocals ennoble a rich diary of songs, assuring there’s more than shaking booties and partying in this woman’s musical outlook.