Lalah Hathaway creates music that youanxiously wait to hear performed live. And you know the performance is going tolive up to your expectations because she’s been blessed with a voice that’s mellow,soothing and smooth.
While Lalah released her first album in 1990,I’m a relatively new fan. (I was introduced to her after my sister created amixed CD a few years ago which contained several songs from 2008’s Self Portrait.)
I’ve come to develop a deep appreciation forher music. There isn’t another artist around who sounds like Lalah Hathaway,and with the music business mostly focused on the visual and appealing to ayounger crowd, listening to a truly talented and grown artist is refreshing.
When talent such as Lalah continues to providea sound that’s real and uniquely hers, you know all is not lost in music.
Where It All Begins, her latest release, iscomposed of many faster songs than I’m used to hearing from her. At firstlisten, they didn’t really grab my attention – perhaps because it’s such adeparture from her previous work. But the beauty of hearing an artist performlive is that it allows you to hear the songs differently. Now, I realize Lalahis just providing listeners with a wider range of her music.
Lalah performing at Yoshi’s Oakland is aperfect combination. A frequent guest at the intimate venue, Lalah, with hersignature locks flowing freely over her shoulders, opened her on Dec. 2, 2011 setwith If You Want To, a song from Where It All Begins. Up-tempo and energetic, If You Want To, inspires listeners to get up and shake a leg on the dancefloor. If Yoshi’s was that kind of space, I would have been up two-stepping.
The band transitioned right into one of myabsolute favorite songs from Self Portrait, Breathe. I was slow grooving in my chair as I was reminded“that this ain’t the end of the road. It’s all a bad dream until you believe.”
The hour-long show was a good mixture ofmaterial sung by other artists, as well as her own. That can sometimes be adisappointment if you expect to hear an artist perform only their songs. But becauseLalah is known for covering other singers (and doing a fantastic job in theprocess), I didn’t mind at all.
She definitely put a smile on her father,Donny Hathaway’s face with her rendition of his song A Song for You. Whilelistening to Lalah sing with such beauty and depth, my mind actually paused inrealization that her voice envelops you with a feeling of love and a sense ofpeace. Utterly amazing.
I also suspect singer Anita Baker (Angel)and the members of Earth, Wind and Fire (Love’s Holiday) would have nothingbut praise for her renditions as well.
And I trust Luther Vandross (Forever, For Always, For Love) is delighted that his song is performed with the love and joy Lalah radiates as she sings about “remembering the love we once had,” forgetting about the past and making love last this time around. Lalah covered this hit on her 2004 album, Outrun The Sky, and it has since become a favorite of Oakland’s audience.
The individual performances by background singers Jason Morales and Toni Scruggs deserved their own standing ovations. Both vocalists held their own while performing their interpretation of the Ella Fitzgerald classic Summertime. Their vocal range had such depth and feeling that it raised the hair on the back of my neck and had the audience hooting and hollering.
I appreciate when an artist gives stage time to other band members, providing them with their own spotlight to shine. From the first notes of If You Want To, to the encore of This Christmas, the audience was engrossed with Lalah at every turn. When she went left, they moved with her. When she strayed from the song and improvised, they shouted and cheered. Several times, many in the audience stood and applauded.
During the show, Hathaway encouraged showattendees to support Where It All Begins and push it to platinum status.There’s no reason her album shouldn’t sell millions of copies.
Here’s to hoping that those reading this willgo out and support an artist whose music needs and deserves to be on top of thecharts.
Upcoming shows: Erykah Badu at the Warfield, Dec. 10 and Watch theThrone: Jay Z & Kanye West at the HP Pavilion at San Jose Dec. 14.