D'Angelo’s return in Europe: A singer comes out of the shadows

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For fans of future funk, rhythm ‘n’ jazz, of the mystical place where soul collides with space and extended grooves, this weekend was spent scouring the Web for evidence. Was it indeed true that D'Angelo, the 37-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist, creator of a mere two albums in his career, whose secluded life away from music has been the stuff of legend, had done a few gigs in Europe with a full band?

Over the weekend, YouTube offered evidence that it was true, in the form of clips from gigs in Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Paris that showed the singer performing for the first time since 2000, presenting old songs and a few new ones to crowds of admirers.


It’s been more than 10 years since D'Angelo’s now-classic sophomore album, ‘Voodoo,’ floated its seductive ‘Sign of the Times’ into the hearts of millions. Since then, D'Angelo got in trouble with the law, had stopped releasing music, and started on what seemed to be a legendary eating binge that in photos captured the singer with the mythic washboard abs looking like Elvis Presley on the day of his demise.

The past few months, though, have been rife with rumors of the singer’s return, both to the stage and with new recordings. Questlove, the drummer for the Roots, was quoted on Pitchfork in early December as saying that the new full-length album was ’97 percent done,’ and that, “for all intents and purposes, this album is the black version of [The Beach Boys’] ‘Smile’ -- at best, it will go down in the ‘Smile'/'There’s a Riot Going On'/Miles Davis’ ‘On the Corner’ category.’

The evidence above, from the Paris gig at Le Zenith, suggests that D'Angelo’s most certainly got his groove back. Check out the eleven-minute version of ‘Devil’s Pie’ that transcendently glides into ‘Chicken Grease.’ He also did a pretty remarkable version of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity.’

D'Angelo continues his European trek on Monday night in Amsterdam, followed by shows in London on Friday and Saturday, Oslo on Feb. 6 and Zurich on Feb. 7. No word yet on American dates, but we’ll keep you posted.


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-- Randall Roberts