On Thursday evening New York felt the heat with 90-degree weather, but the block was really hot on the Upper East Side, where Solange gave an intimate performance at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Inside the white walls of the museum, there was a presence of Black power on display with Solange’s music. As part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival — and co-presented by the Guggenheim — Solange put on a show entitled “An Ode To.” And it was certainly an ode to all things Black, all things relevant and all the things that we felt while listening to her new album.
All the attendees were asked to wear all-white for the performance, which conjured the notion that Solange was our pastor for the evening and we were all members of her musical communion. There were also no cell phones allowed into the venue.
During the show, Solange stated, “I made this album with all of you in mind,” and because her ablem “A Seat At The Table” is highly cerebral and the album’s art is visually mathematic, we have to breakdown her Guggenheim performance, by the numbers:
1. The stage looked like a planetary setting with a large spherical structure and two, large pillars on one side, and three, tall vertical speakers on the other side.
2. While the stage section was empty, the performance started off with glaring, instrumental horns playing her song “Scales.” As the horns continued to play an instrumental refrain from the song, the audience noticed movement happening on the open, upper levels of the museum — and as we looked up, we saw Solange, her two backup vocalists and eight dancers all standing in a single-file line. They descended the museum’s spiraling walkway, winding down a path of six flights, all the way down to the ground floor’s stage section.
The audience was interspersed onto three-levels (some on the ground floor, and some along the walls of the second and third floors- overlooking the ground floor). And while making her way down to the stage, Solange and her army stopped at each floor’s entry way and did a sort of praise-and-worship dance, stopping right-in-front of the crowds along the walls.
3. Once Solange’s uniformed military-style chain marched to the ground floor, they began a sort of praise dance and then segued into an acappella rendition of “Rise” (as the dancers exited the floor), transitioning into “Weary,” then “Cranes In The Sky” (her Grammy-award winning song), then a hand-clap praise dance as “Cranes” outro’d.
4. She then sang a snippet of “Don’t You Wait,” danced a bit more and then segued into a new version of “Mad,” titled “New Mad.” This rendition included more horns (with several, new horn blowers popping up from behind walls above the audience), and vocalized screaming from Solange, her vocalists and her all-male band.
5. The screaming made way for “FUBU,” and during this song, Solange walked throughout the audience on the ground floor, and had fun with the crowd; she even had a slight-twerk moment on the side of the stage, getting the crowd amped up!
6. The fun and light-hearted twerking then segued back into a more serious tone for “Black Maybe,” an acappella and vocalized spoken-word moment for Solange.
7. After that, she and her vocalists began a hand-to-chest praise dance moment that led into the familiar dance scene from “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Halfway through the song, a group of additional dancers and band members (maybe 30 guys and girls, total), began to descend the museum’s winding walkway, making their way down to join Solange at the stage. And true to the video of “DTMH,” Solange definitely included some praise dancing, while the dancers formed two horizontal lines on the ground floor, in front of the stage.
8. After the two lines performed more hand dances and intricate footwork, “DTMH” transitioned into she and her vocalists singing snippets of “Rise,” which ultimately gave way to Solange and her ensemble doing joyful and free-form, rhythmic African circle-dances.
9. The show ended, just as it started, with the glaring, instrumental horns playing her song “Scales,” as Solange led her army off-stage, again in a tight, military-style, single-file line ascending to the second floor and exiting behind a secret wall of the winding walkway.
10. Just when we thought the show was over and the audience began to head towards the exit, Solange came back out to the stage and gave a few words on her performance.
The audience was small, as it was an intimate gathering, and we were all in-awe of what we had witnessed; some were even brought to tears by the high-and-low crashing waves of the performance. Famous attendees included Zoe Kravitz, Bjork, Deray McKesson, Questlove and others.
For the performance Solange wore a fitted, brick-colored asymmetrical bodysuit underneath matching pants with zipper-lined, knee detailing designed by the promising talent of the young, Black fashion designer Telfar. Her vocalists wore a similar design, as the wardrobe of her dancers -and the male band- were all designed by Telfar.
Speaking on the experience of working with Solange for this epic performance, Telfar told ESSENCE, “It took us two days to get everything together. Solange came to me and knew exactly what she wanted, and we made it work. She’s an artist who knows what she wants! There were some custom-made pieces and some archive collection pieces.”
Solange choreographed, directed, composed and titled the evening’s performance, ‘An Ode To,’ calling it “an interdisciplinary performance piece and meditation examining themes from ‘A Seat at the Table’ through movement, installation, and experimentation with reconstructed musical arrangements.”
She appreciated the support and cooperation of the Guggenheim museum, but she says she wants to tear the walls down in spaces such as this, because “our people” built them, without always receiving the dignity and credit that we deserve, “…inclusion is not enough, allowance is not enough… We belong here. We built this sh*t,” stated Solange.
She also mentioned that a few days ago, her “Twitter fingers” almost got her into some hot water, because as a Black woman she’s always fighting to be heard, and the internet isn’t always a friend to such a voice. But we heard Solange loud-and-clear at the Guggenheim, and her final words of the night were: “Hold your community tight,” as she walked off the stage.
Solange will also be perfomring at ESSENCE Festival 2017! Get your tickets now! Single-night tickets and ticket packages are on sale now! For more info and the latest news, visit our Festival page here.