Coachella 2011: Erykah Badu keeps her cool during glitch-filled set

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For an artist like Erykah Badu, the Coachella mainstage could prove a challenge.

Badu’s live shows of late have earned praise from loyal fans and mixed reviews from critics, one reason being she’s the type of performer who likes to take her time, and push at the boundaries of audience expectations.

She is known to riddle live offerings with impromptu vamps and erratic set lists, and is known to close down the house many a time. Shows at both the Greek and the El Rey theaters in Los Angeles were cut off after Badu had exceeded her alotted time; lights were turned on and she was told to end.


Photos: Panoramas of Coachella 2011

But Badu skipped her usual performance ritual: she still had her customary tea set on stage, but she didn’t have time to light her incense or start to build a slow-burning groove. Instead, after having been only a few minutes late, she launched into “20 Feet Tall,” the lead track from the second installment of her ‘New Amerykah’ series.

“Keep in mind, I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my … ,” she said after having winced at the feedback from her microphone -- a glitch that recurred for the rest of the show.

Flanked by a band and backup singers that played to her vocal strengths, she remained poised when the sound failed her. Her patience, however, began to wane. She appeared to shoot some stern looks to workers resting on the side of the stage before seeming to abruptly cut her set nearly 20 minutes short. “Thank you, that’s all I got,” Badu said to the confused crowd. “Serious. That’s all I got …”

Whether it was a ploy or a final warning to the crew, it worked. Though she then limited her singing and concentrated on an experimental jam session full of electronic backbeats -- which she crafted onstage –- when she did return to the mic, the problems ceased.

But right when she was getting into a moment, as her voice fluttered over a run of notes, her mic was cut; she was out of time. And even though the folks backstage restored sound for a moment to finish a note (an olive branch?), the set quickly ended again.


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Images from the 2011 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy