The first two weeks of a new job can be exciting. You're meeting people, learning new things and trying to figure out where there bathroom is. Maybe that's why Amanda Diva, the newest member of Floetry, looked a little lost during the group's performance at Toad's Place last night. She walked on the stage with the grace of a roadie carrying an amplifier, minus the cool and confidence that comes from years of experience. During the duo's opener, "Sunshine," she looked distracted, like Michele in Destiny's Child after Beyonce's Dad fired that other girl.
This tour is being billed as a "remixed" version of Floetry, and for good reason. If a new member wasn't enough for fans to get used to, the band gave their song "Butterflies," a hit for current Virginia resident Micheal Jackson,(He's living in northern Virginia with his publicist.) a new bass-heavy arrangement that buried the song's melody. But the bottomless voice of original member Marsha Ambrosius would not be concealed as she sang about the jitters and uncertainty of a new relationship. Her potent stage presence was an anchor in a show that sometimes seemed adrift.
Diva, a former MTV2 host, appeared to unravel in the first half of the show as wiped away tears that weren't visible a few feet from the stage. "I've had a rough day," she said. "I've got some big shoes to fill ?Ý I just want to do music."
After that bit of drama, they did. The group performed one of Diva's songs and Floetry's "Momma's House" and by the time they got to "Say Yes," the new member had gained some swagger. Her poise was evident as she rhymed over hip hop classics that invigorated the crowd, using the comfort of familiar material to shore up her presentation. She then brought an audience member onstage as Ambrosius sang a faithful rendition of the seductive ballad, "It's Getting Late." Diva teased him as Ambrosius brought down the house with impressive vocal runs that begged the question of whether she really needs a spoken word artist standing beside her.
The show concluded with a cover of UGK's International Player's Anthem, an unusual choice for a closer, which had Ambrosius singing over a Willie Hutch sample. The band continued to play as the audience filed out and a few faithful clamored for an encore.
The chemistry that made Floetry work is difficult to replicate and trying to only reminds the audience of what's missing. It's likely this tour will serve as a dress rehearsal for Ambrosius' solo career (She recently signed with Dr. Dre's Aftermath label.) and will likely be remembered as an awkward moment in R&B history.
Opener Emily King may have a more promising future. She kept the crowd engaged as she performed pop-tinged R&B from her forthcoming release, "East Side Story." King appeared to be having fun on stage, an element that was missed later in the evening.
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