Erykah Badu Tour Opener

ByABC News
February 12, 2001, 1:57 PM

Feb. 12 -- Punctuality is not Erykah Badu's strong suit.

Considering that the neo-soul queen kept her fans waiting nearly four years for Mama's Gun, her studio follow-up to her 1997 monster debut disc, Baduizm, keeping the audience and band waiting a few minutes longer for the kickoff of her highly anticipated tour Saturday night at Cleveland's Allen Theatre didn't truly come as a surprise.

The soon-to-be-29-year-old Dallas, Texas, native whose amalgam of urban sounds, old-school styles, and Oprah positivism single-handedly opened the door for contemporary soul sisters Macy Gray, Angie Stone, and Jill Scott took her time before appearing at the recently refurbished performance hall that appropriately dates back to the jazz age of Badu's idols Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. The show began awkwardly, as her backing group, dressed in dark, nondescript coveralls, walked onstage ready to play among cheers from the audience, only to stand waiting in uncomfortable silence for nearly 10 minutes.

Jazzy Improvisations

The saucy and stunning ingénue finally strolled out onstage in true diva fashion, wearing her trademark headdress, along with a fur coat and a lit stick of incense in her mouth. Her acting abilities Badu played a critically acclaimed supporting role in the 1999 movie The Cider House Rules were evident.

Musically, Badu started slowly with a few quick scat lines preceding the night's opening track, "On & On." As it would all night, her polished band, remaining firmly out of the spotlight, lavishly decorated her Afrocentric musical stylings. Badu made her presence known with her strong, mesmerizing jazz voice, which swept the moment.

Mama's Gun, an album that looks more toward the future than reliving the past, provided an overwhelming majority of the night's material. Thankfully, Badu's past knack of effortlessly reworking and digressing in jazz structures from her mature studio versions remains intact. She took liberties with each song, and for the most part they were all worth the effort.