I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Bilal perform many times in my life. Still, there was an undeniable electricity in the air at World Cafe Live on the eve of December 29th. It buzzed all around me as I found the perfect spot to post up. A stellar playlist of throwback Hip Hop and R&B kept the steady trickle of folks boppin’ as they joined the feel-good vibes in filling up the room.
I imagine our welcome must have felt like heat from a pot of good cookin’ after you lift the lid. The crowd was simmering and our anticipation had the tightly packed space steamed all the way up. He responded like anybody brave enough to sneak in mama’s pots; he dove right in.
Yes, Bilal was certainly in the building. Present in a way that felt bigger and fuller…even for him. If you’ve experienced a live Bilal concert before, then you know his shows are all kinds of amazing, one-of-a-kind-ness. This showcase was more than that. Yes, more. There’s been an evolution. Bilal has been revolutionized. And although it was not televised, his brilliance on display was certainly seen and heard in Philly that night.
He so appropriately ushered us into his world with the sensations of “Sirens II”. Stoked the fires with a “ Soul Sista” Remix so funked-up that spectators missed it, but soul lovers caught and grooved to. He funked us some more with a crowd-choir-chant of the Yarbrough & Peoples synth-thick classic “Don’t Stop The Music”. And he didn’t. It kept coming. Just like the chorus we happily sang for him, Bila l loved us “…all night long.”
The evening’s soothe was unfamiliar at times, but delicious all the same. Bilal’s 12″ version of “Back to Love” had us riding the waves of a pristine falsetto-led vocal range. We knew he was blessed and could do all that. But damn, I’m not sure we were ready. We got ready though, real quick, when he insisted we join him on the Cult[ural] Classic “ Sometimes”. The soul really started to stir then.
Listen, Bilal had magic movin’ on his stage. From his band of Bonafide Soulfides to the dazzle of the K ingz Kounty Klothing Moors sweatshirt I pray The Sable Collective can get in stock soon, we were mesmerized. At times, I found myself joining others in momentary pauses. As if we sensed there were musical seconds coming that we’d never forgive ourselves for missing. Thank goodness Bilal held us close. We were in it together and the ride was so good.
The extra helpings of soul food featuring Kindred the Family Sou l and Hezekiah on “Fast Lane” made me double check the whereabouts of my ticket stub. I wanted to make sure I could show it off, I mean, add it to my keepsake stash. Thank you Bilal for more of you than we expected and everything lovers of soul needed.