Solange Rises 

Beyonce's quirky sister mixes retro-soul with Bjork, Cardigans at Fridays at Sunset.

click to enlarge solange3.jpg

The day after the pop music's biggest star was found lifeless in his Los Angeles home, several hundred music fans came out to Fridays at Sunset to hear voices of the next generation of pop singers.

“I'm performing with a heavy heart,” said opening act Ryan Leslie. “I'll do my best to carry on … the inspiration [Michael Jackson] gave to me.”

The Harvard graduate and former Richmond resident tried hard to live up to that promise.

The wiry Leslie offered a zestful performance of songs from his self-titled debut that left the hot crowd rejuvenated and his black v-neck t-shirt drenched in sweat. The energy of his set was threatened only by extended discussions with the audience about his journey to become a recording artist. After seeing Leslie dance and sing his way through his own songs such as the uptempo “Quicksand,” and covers like Bootsy's Collins' “I'd Rather Be With You,” a little less conversation would be a good thing.

When your sister's name is BeyoncAc, making your way in the music business isn't easy as one might think. But Solange Knowles has followed her own quirky path, earning a reputation as a difficult interview subject, tossing a mic stand into the audience and getting married and divorced at an early age. Unfortunately, the publicity of these events, while establishing an identity apart from her big sister, has also overshadowed the talent and music she has to offer.

From her entrance in a colorful sundress and gold boots, Ms. Knowles was on her best behavior. Her takes on the retro soul tracks of her second album were on point, as her songs “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Sandcastle” drew the crowd, many seated in lawn chairs, closer to the stage.

“Security, don't trip,” Solange warned the stone-faced men in yellow shirts.

Backed by a all-white band  (The Hadley St. Dreams) clad in yellow suits and two beautiful back-up singers, Solange's show was like a soul revue as she worked in a short take of the Motown classic, “Heatwave.” Not afraid to challenge her audience, she would later take on the Caridgans' “Lovefool” and gospel version of Bjork's “Oh So Quiet.”

Unlike the troubled diva Amy Winehouse, who struggles to stay upright on stage, Solange's retro-soul presentation includes the choreography from girl groups of yesterday. She and her back-up singers dazzled with classic and seductive moves all night long.

The diminutive Texan closed with her hit “I Decided,” which she turned into a spirited sing-a-long with the audience. When she returned for a final bow, she hadn't left anything on the stage, except her microphone stand. Don't trip.



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