With big sis Beyonce swaying and singing along in the center balcony, Solange and her polished backing band brought an energetic yet thoroughly tasteful set to the House of Blues Thursday night. Touring in support of her buzzed-about EP “True,” Solange indicated that she is comfortably coming into her own as a solo artist — pursuing a distinct musical direction that is mature and, appropriately enough, true to her own tastes and desires.
The sold-out House of Blues audience was packed with music-industry stars, including former collaborators Timbaland and Pharrell Williams. As Beyonce and Jay-Z held court on the balcony, members of Vampire Weekend and the Dirty Projectors shuffled around the periphery, craning to catch a glimpse of the stage. It was a testament to Solange’s genre-bending tastes and universal likeability that prominent representatives of both the mainstream and indie worlds would congregate to cheer her on.
The opening third of the performance moved along briskly, with Solange’s backing band loosening up and displaying an effortlessly cool sense of pacing and control. The nostalgic charm of “T.O.N.Y” quickly gave way to the thudding, reverb-laden beat of “Bad Girls (Verdine Version)” a funky, beautifully crafted ballad that allowed Solange’s feather-light vocals to ascend delightfully as bassist DJ Ginyard slapped out jagged refrains. An emotional reading of Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love” added some straightforward melodrama to the otherwise aesthetically pristine setlist.
Throughout the evening, Solange and guitarist Dev Hynes engaged in a series of endearing synchronized dance moves that seemed to crystallize her musical ethos: This is music that is both decidedly cool and incredibly inclusive — absorbing listeners from across the spectrum of taste without losing any of its idiosyncrasy or artistic weight. Hynes, who produced and wrote a good deal of “True,” is known for his solo work as Blood Orange and Lightspeed Champion, but seems to have also found himself as Solange’s producer and primary musical collaborator.
Recent breakthrough single “Losing You” capped the hour-long set, as Solange excitedly encouraged the audience to “dance like there’s no tomorrow” as the song’s rattling, jubilant drum beat triumphantly blared through the venue. The tune’s simple melody and straightforward lyrics are evocative yet universal — the perfect pop song formula — allowing the audience to sing a long while assigning personal meaning to its skeletal lyrical frame. As the song came to its end, Solange briefly left the stage as the crowd chanted for her return. After a few moments, the singer reemerged, humbly thanked the audience and launched into the funky, raved-up strains of “Sandcastle Disco.”
Coming off of Beyonce’s electricity-blitzing Super Bowl halftime show, Solange’s no-frills approach seemed almost reactionary, shirking glitz and spectacle for something more sincere. She will never reach the level of stardom and reverence that her sister has so unequivocally captured, but if Thursday night’s show was any indicator, she simply doesn’t care.