Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Me'Shell N'dego has lost her mind

I’m officially finished with Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s concerts. She’s too deep for me. She’s too deep for music.

I was skeptical about attending her show at Amos’ Southend on Friday, but I wanted to give her another shot.

The last time I saw her was in 1999, when she opened for Sting at Ovens Auditorium. When she finally arrived on stage, after her band had played for an eternity (think Parliament and George Clinton), she acted as if she didn’t want to be there. She sang with her eyes closed, and it took her several songs to hit her stride.
I worried Friday would be the same.

However, Kitch (who promoted the show) assured me she was going to perform at 10:45 p.m. When he booked the show, the deal was that Me’Shell would open for W. Ellington Felton. Then Felton would perform a set, after which the two would perform together. It had the potential to be great.

When I arrived at Amos’ about 11 p.m., Me’Shell was already performing, and she seemed into it. Between songs, she talked about issues such as hunger and poverty, and wondered aloud why people such as the Rev. Al Sharpton were criticizing hip-hop instead of fixing real problems. She sang a few songs, but focused mostly on her instrumental cuts. She played her bass and jammed with the band on rock and trippy jazz tunes.

She acted like one of those artists who is too deep to play older material, such “"If That's Your Boyfriend” and “Dredloc.” Instead, she force-fed fans her newer jazzy music. Selfish, but not surprising.

The surprise came 45 minutes into the set. I was talking to some friends when I looked up a the stage and noticed that Me’Shell was gone. Fans were streaming out of the door. In what seemed like 10 minutes, Amos’ was nearly empty.

Apparently, sometime during the day, Me’Shell decided she wasn’t going to perform with Ellington. She didn’t perform an encore. She came out later to introduce Felton, and she talked about how she was a fan of his music.

If Me’Shell was really a fan of anyone but herself, she wouldn’t have acted the way she did on Friday.

Opening for Ellington was dumb. Fans want to see her perform. She knows good and well that as soon as she’s done, people are going to leave.

Plus, if she really wanted to support Ellington, she should have performed with him and slowly fazed herself out and left him onstage. Then fans who liked what they heard would have stayed for his set. Instead, the stage was empty for at least 10 minutes, and people left.

Me’Shell comes off as one of those artists who is deeper than deep and believes the rest of us simply don’t understand how deep she is. I don’t want to understand. I want to see a good show, and have a good time. She can save that deep stuff for her boo.

Apparently, considering what I’m hearing about her recent shows in Washington (someone got cussed out) and Atlanta (she passed out, cussed out the audience, performed and left), we got off easy.

It’s a shame. She’s alienating fans and wasting her talent. She used to use her music to make people talk and think about uncomfortable topics. Now she uses it to try to prove how deep she is.

13 comments:

Illust888 said...

Hey Tonya,

La linked me over to your blog. Don't forget she had a "cold" or was it "allergies"? Maybe she's mixing "medications". Anyway, at least she didn't throw water on us like she did in ATL. So I've heard.

-Tony

dbyers said...

Tonya Jameson has lost her mind

I'm officially finished with Tonya Jameson's articles. She's too deep for me. She's too deep for Charlotte.

I was skeptical about reading her review of the Me'shell Ndegeocello show at Amos' Southend on Friday, but I wanted to give her another shot.

The last time I saw Meshell perform was October 9, 2006 in NYC with Robert Glasper and Lionel Loueke. Their show was simply amazing, instrumental music -- a piano, an acoustic guitar, a bass, and a sheet music stand, 2 pieces of paper and 2 ballpoint pens. True, raw improvised jazz. She played with her eyes closed, and she hit her stride on the very first note. I hoped Friday would be the same. I would not be disappointed musically.

You see, as a person who appreciates great music and great artists, I feel blessed and priviledged whenever an artist of Me'shell's stature has decided to give me a taste of new material and not spoon feed me a greatest hits collection over and over. I'm probably one of the biggest Prince fans in the world with over 1000 albums of his and 100+ shows seen, but that doesnt mean I care to hear Purple Rain over and over. Why do artists have to fit in the box you place before them? Me'shell didn't have to go all the way back to 1993 to satisfy the older fans, she only went back 11 years ago to preach from the book of "Ecclestiastes" and had everyone Freeing Their Hearts so Their Souls would fly.

Meshell entered the stage in her normal fashion as she does all of her concerts. There were ample announcements about no flash photography and bright lights. Apparently, it's a crime to not want to die on stage from an epileptic seizure. In my opinion, the person in Atlanta who took her picture with a flash camera in the dark room, should have been stomped out by the bodyguards, arrested for intent to kill, and had a lawsuit to reimburse the fans for ruining the show for them.

But I digress, as far as music goes, if you are a true fan, or even a person with internet access, let alone a journalist, you would know her last released full album was a jazz album. Her EP which is currently only out in france is an eclectic mix of Techno-rock-funk with very little words as well. Buy it here, or shoot me an email and I'll make you a nice listening catalog of her stuff:

http://www.amazon.fr/3-MeShell-Ndeg%C3%A9Ocello/dp/B000JFZ9IY/ref=pd_bbs_1/402-5655334-4536155?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1178633328&sr=8-1

As far as Dub El and Meshell, that seems to be something that Kitch didn't handle correctly up front with their creative differences and/or show dollars. In all of the shows in the different cities that I have seen with her, she's never had an opening act. She's either performed with others, headlined only, or opened for "bigger" names. I think thats just her steelo.

But really, it's all a shame. Tonya is wasting her talent not describing the music as it was presented, but too busy tearing down a great artist because she wasn't being catered to all night. Perhaps if she showed up before 11pm, she might have liked the show a little more. Maybe since she got to see the show 'free' made her that more privlidged to critique the music. I don't know...my head hurts, but pondering that is just too deep for me.

rsenal said...

Tonya....put your feet up, I got you...

As a huge Prince fan myself, no, i dont want to hear "Purple Rain" or "When Doves Cry" over and over, but I do expect to be reminded why I fell in love with you and your music. In other words,the reason most people go to concerts is to hear the music they love played live, to sing along to the words and revel in their favorite parts of the songs. People dont necessarily go to be treated to an artists moodswings, as is the case whenever one pays to see MeShell. I love The Legendary Roots Crew to death, but if I knew they were doing a show full of new material, i would probably find something else to do that night. The new material did sound good, but it was not what 99% of the people came to hear that night (yeah, I took an unofficial survey that night for my charlottevibe.com review).

and as far as the way Kitch handled the show....thats the way the tour was/is supposed to go down. He told me the same thing a couple of weeks ago, that she was to come out, then W, then they would play together (check meshell's myspace page, W says so himself that she was to open up for him). When I got there, I asked Kitch if it was still going down that way. He just looked at me and said "Enjoy Me Shell's minutes", hinting that she had changed her mind.

It's not about being catered to all night, it's about being respectful of your $$$$$ paying audience (me and wifey included)

felicia said...

From W.Ellingoton's myspace page....

the issues with this tour is that the promotors are not making it clear what the vision of the tour was. there were ALOT of broken promises on this tour. there were alot of missing pieces of importance. things that the artist believed were done before we even arrived for the first show... this wasnt the case and it started to crumble in DC and continued to happen in every city.

last yaer i think prince did a series of shows with a girl name tamara or something. he was trying to introduce the world/his world to a NEW artist. this is what me'shell had in mind for this tour.

its unfortunate that black artist are never able to evolve in front of their audience... she wants to do her "New Material". Folks wanna hear "the old stuff". she wants to introduce you to a new artist but, folks dont wanna meet or discover a new artist. folks say that they are "fans" as long as the artist presents themselves under the fan's conditions. this is no justification or excuse for anyone's short-comings or
behavior but, it is an attempt at a moment of clarity.

i see other artist introduce new songs all the time and it is received, embraced, and made to feel comfortable to then pull out an old song or two.

fans, promotors and venues tend to focus on concepts like "celeb" or
"opener/headliner". the fact of the matter is that folks wont accept anything "new". I opened in dc and folks complained about me'shell's closing. me'shell opens up and folks complain in charlotte. infact, the
charlotte show's host didnt even know my name or how to say me'shells full name. lol...

we arrive to atlanta to discover WE (meshell's people and my people)
didnt even have solid housing arrangements...

the PERSON who set this tour up clearly didnt promote what the
"searching for the method tour" was about... as the artist we kept our end of the deal..

dbyers said...

Thanks for your perspective rsenal, I now understand why artists have moodswings on stage, its because of fairweather fans. Meshell has her fair share of issues just like any other person in the world. Is she to be void of emotions and feelings because you shelled out $25 to hear good music? By you saying the new material sounded good, it appears you got your money's worth already, so whats the next argument? I guess you've never taken a sick day at the office? I'll be sure to inform your boss that because they are paying you to perform, no matter how bad you feel, you better not have any attitude when you are serving those fries with my McCheesburger.

The reason people fall in love with an artist is because of the music--old and new. I counted atleast two songs that she sang that I knew the words too, so they must've been old. I'm sorry it wasn't 'dreadloc' or 'Leviticus' or 'Girlfriend' for you. Maybe catch her in the next city and she'll have it on the cue! When you fall in love with a song, you get people like Vanilla Ice, 4 x Four, Milli Vanilli, etc.--folks with no longevity, but MAN did they have the JAM back in the day. You'll find these artists on your summer jam tour coming to an amphitheatre near you in august.

Count me in the 1% of the population that came to hear Me'shell play, anything. 99.9% of her fans probably couldn't name 10 songs she's made, even though shes working on studio album 7, and shes contributed to countless soundtracks and musical scores. Whether its all jazz, all rock, all funk, or her standing there stomping her feet chewing out Rev. Al Sharpton or Bush or whatever it is on her mind. She's an artist, and as a fan of artists, I give her the brush and a can of paint and I EXPECT her to share with me.

By the way, the legendary roots crew was perfoming the same night for $65 at Davidson. You would've probably hated them too since they were performing with O.A.R. and not doing their songs that you fell in love with. I am sure I would have loved seeing them perform since they are amazing artists.

kdog said...

Yikes, Tonya. I was disappointed with the show too (for different reasons than you) but your interpretation of her attitude toward her audience--that she's "deeper than deep and believes the rest of us simply don’t understand how deep she is"--is taking things a little too personally. And thanks for having the candor to admit that you were "surprised" that she had left the stage, but aren't you even a little bit embarrassed by your behavior? Why pay $25 for a show and then yammer all the way through it? (Maybe you didn't pay to get in but that certainly doesn't excuse your rudeness toward the performers and toward the other people who paid to hear them and not you.) And if you're going to talk to your friends instead of watching the show, please don't complain that the artist is self-absorbed!

As for the music, she's not a nostalgia act, so get over it. Every recording she's ever made (with the possible exception of Peace Beyond Passion) has been a significant departure from her previous one. Her newest EP (try dustygroove.com for a US source) and soon-to-be-released full-length again differ from her most recent jazz CD and from anything else in her catalog. That's the Meshell I went to see. I have my old favorites, too (not the same as yours, I bet), but I went to that concert hoping to hear some new favorites.

Finally, my understanding is that Meshell often keeps her eyes closed on stage because she has epilepsy and camera flashes can trigger her seizures. No matter how many announcements they make (although I don't recall hearing any that night), some idiot always takes a flash picture anyway.

I've always been a fan of your columns, but you missed badly with this one.

rsenal said...

hey dbyers...thanks for the engaging conversation, now i know why artists feel like they can treat folks any way they want to, it's because of "Stans", (not pointing any fingers, just saying).
NExt thing you know, she'll be acting like G.G. Allin on stage, and we'll have people defending her, saying "as long as she showed up, i dont care"

btw- The Legendary Roots Crew show was only 35 dollars (in advance). I've seen them 15+ times (becasue they are EXTRAORDINARY ARTISTS),and yes, they did songs that i fell in love with (have seen a set list). Maybe you shouldve gone to see how a real concert is suppposed to feel

dbyers said...

rsenal,

Your G.G. Allin comment wasn't funny the first time I read it on okayplayer.com, stop pushing your wack comparisons on us over at charlotte.com. Meshell aint losing her bodily fluids on stage, aint rolling in feces and blood, and doesnt stay locked up in prison talking bout suicide on stage every halloween.

I'm sorry if I come across as too defensive of one of the last great musicians alive. Im hoping more people understand and appreciate her while she is still alive and touring, and not revered when shes dead like Miles Davis. Perhaps one of your 99% crew will be the idiot that kills her on stage from an epileptic seizure triggered by a $25 entrance fee demand, to have the rights to take pictures of her. Perhaps if you and the other 99% of folks that didn't know what to expect from a Meshell concert knew to only expect great music...we might not be in this disagreement.

Was the show all that I hoped and dreamed it would be? Heck no! I wanted 5 hours of good music and all of the lesbians to take their sex acts from in front of the stage to a hotel room, so I could enjoy the view alot better.

Was I disappointed in the show? Mildly. I wanted her to play longer and to give folks that have never seen her live, more of a taste of what makes her so great. Afterall, I had hyped her show up to a few friends that I got to attend, who otherwise wouldn't have went. But to say she went out in Charlotte and disrespected the crowd or to she say that she was too deep for us is way, way off the mark. Thats like saying Rev. Al didn't really bash Mitt Romney and mormons, when everyone in attendance knows otherwise.

Outside of total length, Her set was of the chain musically. Her drummer was killing it and made me have that rotten cheese face all night, like ewwww! Charlotte got to priviledge what most cities never get to see, a masterclass in funk.

I got to experience another Meshell live jam session on stage in my city and I didnt have to travel to other cities as I had in the past. And yeah I passed up the roots this night to see her. I figure seeing them three times in the past year was fair enough to pass them up this round.

rsenal, You might be right about all things reggae, but you are wrong about Meshell. If you won't buy a ticket to her next show because of this experience, good riddance, that puts me one person closer to the stage. And I'm no 'Stan', everyone knows thats m (http://www.freemyheart.com).

PS. I am not too big of a man to admit that I was wrong about The Roots show... I mistyped $65 when I meant $35. Congrats, on being right about something.

rsenal said...

heeeey fellow 'kayplayer....good too see we've brought the bickering from "The Lesson" to our city. Didnt like the G.G. Allin joke, huh? Good to see you know a bad joke when you hear it, wonder where the concert ranks on your bad joke list.

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. You loved it, and everybody else was disappointed. Yeah, i said the music sounded good, but at that point, i was trying to make lemonade, ya know.

oh yeah, for the record-im a hip hop snob, im one the reggae site to do an internet radio show

keep (okay)playing dbyers....

Anonymous said...

Hey Tonya,

The word is 'phased', not 'fazed', you moron!

Anonymous said...

dbyers, i was right there with you until that little comment about m (at freemyheart.com). not funny. if not for m, most of us would be hard pressed to know when and where the next meshell show was, or where to find the press' latest rants and raves about her, or her entire discography (including appearances on soundtracks and compilations), or the lyrics to one of her more obscure songs. m has been doing this a long, long time, with $$ out of his own pocket (and the occasional contribution from those of us who want to help). he has nurtured the passion (in my case, bordering on obsession) that we have for this artist and her music. please leave him alone. ~groove thang

dbyers said...

Anonymous,

That wasn't intended as a diss to matthew. In my eyes he is her #1 fan. Isn't that what the song Stan is about? You said so yourself..."bordering on obsession". Calm down, nothing to pounce on. I like m, I was just letting rsenal know I wasn't her #1 fan, there are far bigger ones out there than me.

mk said...

Love ya, TJ, but I must agree with some of these folks. You don't go see Me'Shell for nostalgia, you go see what musical direction she's taking right here and right now. I hate I missed the show. Her splash into the middle of the downtown jazz pool on Dance of the Infidel was awesome. Charlotte needs MORE, not LESS adventurous music. Sure, Me'Shell is moody -- real artists are. Pop stars are moody, too. They just fake it better by saying stuff like, "Thank you for making me a star." C'mon, TJ, I like you and you're moody. I much prefer your old quips about me being an over-the-hill boomer to the empty words of the kind of folks who curiously smile all the time. By the way... "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Tonya... Happy birthday to you!!!" :)