North Coast Music Festival: D'Angelo & the Vanguard, Steve Aoki, Wave Racer, Moon Boots, the Roots, and others | Union Park | Fairs & Festivals | Chicago Reader

North Coast Music Festival: D'Angelo & the Vanguard, Steve Aoki, Wave Racer, Moon Boots, the Roots, and others All Ages Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Sat., Sept. 5, 1:15 p.m. 2015

Dropped without warning last December, D’Angelo’s third album, Black Messiah (RCA), picks up where his 2000 classic, Voodoo, left off—and it pretty much ignores most of the less-than-memorable advances made in R&B during the lengthy gap. The singer dealt with plenty of problems during his time away (alcohol and drug abuse, a violent car wreck, a charge of soliciting a female police officer, etc), but he’s found his way again. Like its predecessor, Black Messiah is a wonderfully loose, detail-packed band record (no need for sampling, synthesizers, or hollow cameos here), and D’Angelo was so ahead of the curve at the turn of the century that he still doesn’t seem to have any real competition. The grooves are thick, churning, and unkempt, with the grinding lines of bassist Pino Palladino providing rough, bumpy textures. And the front man’s singing, which is still buried in the mix, gives shape to monster jams via rich layers of harmony—one voice is demonstrative, another cooing, and another soaring upward in a post-Sly Stone falsetto. Sounds that might seem retro, like the one produced by an electric sitar on “The Charade,” sound fresh in the raw mix, and though jazzy syncopations on a track like “Sugah Daddy” would sound corny in lesser hands, D’Angelo sharpens them in ways we all wish Prince still would. Black Messiah inevitably lacks the impact of Voodoo, but eight months after first hearing it I haven’t had to wait for the novelty to wear off—because it’s another classic. I haven’t seen D’Angelo perform live since the Voodoo tour, but I can still recall his simmering intensity and nonchalant sensuality like it was yesterday. D’Angelo & the Vanguard perform at 8:45 PM. See our sidebar on North Coast Music Festival.

Peter Margasak

Price: $69 per day, $159 for three-day pass

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