Friday, January 30, 2009
The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater
Better Than: Being sung to by the girl of your dreams. Or close to it anyway.
Okay, I'm gonna get a lot of flack for this, so I may as well get it over with quickly:
Last night at the Fillmore Gleason, John Legend got his ass kicked by Estelle.
Obviously, it wasn't a one-on-one, in-the-ring-with-gloves kinda ass-kicking (though with Legend's full-screen boxing champion motif, one couldn't help from wondering just who'd beat who by the bell). But it was the kinda smack down that occurs when a performer gets seriously upstaged by an opener. That Estelle managed to unseat Legend with one-half the stage and one-tenth the stage effects only made it more of a triumph.
How'd she do it, you ask? With simple stagecraft, that's how.
Yep, Estelle hit The Fillmore Miami Beach with nothing more than a quick wit, some catchy songs, a crack back-up band, and a personality that was born to be in front of the spotlight. And she left the sell-out crowd completely converted.
From the get it was clear the British sensation had come to own our town, on her terms - and in high style. I'm not familiar enough with fashion to know which designer created the violet sheath she was wearing, but I know enough about dames to tell you that it proved her to be all woman. Skin tight, beyond short, and showing a shoulder which was anything but cold, Estelle's dress was the kinda dress only a knock-out could pull off, which made it just about perfect.
But as bothered as this hottie leaves me, I didn't come to gawk; I came to listen. And let me tell ya, everything coming outta Estelle's pout-lipped mouth was well worth listening to.
First, of course, there are the songs, each of which is catchier than the last. "Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)" started off the set, and it showcased perfectly Estelle's chops as both a Ross-tinged singer of song and a rapper fully capable of competing with the likes of Lady Sovereign or Ms. Dynamite. An edict for men to take it slow and keep it safe, the tune also happens to be a testament to the joys of foreplay.
The question for me is why Estelle feels compelled to tell cats about this in the first place. I mean, I can't see how any man lucky enough to get close to this bombshell wouldn't wanna make the experience last as long as possible.
But apparently Estelle's met more than a few wrong men, and she's not afraid to tell everybody all about 'em. "No Substitute for Love" hits hard the hustler who can't keep it holstered; then sends him on his way; "More Than Friends" insists that "if [she] wanted to be part time, [she]'d be working at the check-out line;" and "Shine" makes clear that she's not gonna let any man cause her to go off her game.
In fact, Estelle said as much before she delivered a rousing rendition of her latest LP's smashing title track, telling the ladies in the house to step up when they step off, and not worry themselves over any man, no matter what he did.
Still, despite it all, Estelle's not givin' up on love. Not yet. "Come Over" promised the world to the man who can "learn;" and "Pretty Please (Love Me)," with its Supremes beat and sweet treat, is enough to bring any cat within calling distance running just as fast as he can. By the time Estelle further roused the crowd with "American Boy" (dedicated to President Obama), half the dudes in the house were looking to slip out to get her digits.
All in all, I'd say Estelle treated us well and kept it real, and never once took herself or her situations too seriously. As she so succinctly sings in that title track to Shine:
"Fuck it/We're gonna have fun tonight/You feel me?"
Boy, do we!
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Random Detail: Legend apparently played 24 (!) songs in his set, and I'm sure all were rendered pitch perfect. I wouldn't know; I left after three.
Personal Bias: In my interview for New Times, Estelle was nothing short of candid and charming, and she swayed me deeply.
By the Way: Legend's case wasn't helped along by booking his brother Vaughn Anthony as an unannounced sub-opener. I showed at 8pm expecting to catch my dream girl; to have to endure the self-satisfied grunt-and-grind of a man who didn't even have enough respect for the audience (or the room) to wear long sleeves, was no pleasant surprise.