The Civic, Auckland, April 10
Erykah Badu is many things: an artist, an activist, a mother.
But last night she was a performer.
From the moment the Queen of Soul stepped on stage in a #94 Mandela football jersey-cum-poncho and top hat, she hypnotised the crowd of Auckand's incredibly gorgeous Civic Theatre.
Badu has potential for serious political performances, but last night she was relaxed and light-hearted. She played ringmaster, hype woman and comedian.
But when Badu was conducting the band she was reminiscent of soul divas like Nina Simone, demanding perfection from her musicians.
And the band matched her demands.
The seven-piece group rolled seamlessly through endless permutations of her 17-year catalogue.
Badu can scat, rap and croon her way through her five albums. Her voice is unique and powerful.
A slow, haunting performance of Didn't Cha Know, was matched with a pure soulful version of Umm Hmm and a fiery, bass-heavy rendition of Window Seat.
Shouting out the name of her first child's father, Outkast's Andre 3000, Badu performed her verse from the group's track Liberation and shared the crowd's excitement about their reunion this week in the United States.
She had fun performing for the sold-out Civic, gently mocking the crowd's missed timing when called on for the chorus of Tyronne. She spun and danced around the stage, ending the show in just a pair of ripped dungarees and a head wrap.
The band were given a chance to show their skills with impressive solos, including Badu's younger sister who is one of her backup singers.
But the best solo performance of the night belonged to a crowd member invited onto the stage. To heavy arrangement of Danger, the young woman matched the musical skills of the band with a steamy hip hop dance performance that left even Badu short of breath.
Earlier Badu handed the mic to the front-row crowd where another young woman held her own when asked to help out with Bag Lady.
"Ya'll got a whole lot superstars out here," Badu told the crowd - and a number of NZ hip hop royalty were in the audience.
But there was only one queen on the evening, and when she eventually left the stage after nearly two hours it was with much love for a grateful crowd.