SECOND-BEST CONCERT OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS
Who else could bring the house down simply by doffing her oversized Afro wig? Erykah Badu's albums have carefully laid out her persona as a diva for the post-millennium, and thankfully, her live performance at Level proved she has not only the playful über-attitude of Motown's finest, but also the musical chops to drive that spirit home. The sprawling set found her soulful voice drawing on both rhythm and blues traditions (including a wonderful guest turn from Seventies legend Betty Wright) and of-the-moment hip-hop. Yet none of it seemed either retro or overreaching. Part of the credit has to go to Badu's band, which eschewed a guitar to instead double up on both keyboards and percussion, an approach that kept the grooves supple no matter how fevered Badu herself got. By the end, with the audience demanding a third encore, the only real question was why live shows of this caliber don't grace Miami more often. Here's hoping Level, with its excellent sound system and sightlines, can continue to rise to the occasion.
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