One does not simply "see" a D'Angelo show. It isn't an event you just show up to with the same hipster indifference you might find at a club featuring the latest and greatest indie rock band. If you're in the audience to see D'Angelo and his unbelievably talented band The Vanguard, you've been waiting for this. Maybe weeks or months, but in most cases it's been at least a decade. That kind of anticipation is not easily rewarded, but The Second Coming Tour has been blowing people away at every stop along the way. First Avenue in Minneapolis was the final stop in North America for this tour, and you could tell it was special for D'Angelo to end it in the house made famous by his idol, Prince.
Questlove was at the venue doing DJ sets before and after the show. Thank goodness he was, because D'Angelo's flight was delayed and he didn't get to First Ave until after he was scheduled to be on stage. Quest also sat in on drums with opening act LP Music, a progressive jazz quintet based in the Twin Cities and led by saxophonist Eric Leeds (featured on most of Prince's albums from 1986-2003).
The crowd played along with LP Music, bobbing along but mostly just watching Questlove. Everyone in the band is talented to an amazing degree, but with the late start time people were a little antsy to move on to the headliner. The band jammed for about an hour, with an exciting drum battle between Quest and their other drummer Petar Janjic. Janjic held his own for the most part, but Quest eventually ran him down before the bad jumped back in to get back to the funk.
Some time around 11:15 The Vanguard finally took the stage and started playing the intro to "Ain't That Easy," the opening track from Black Messiah. The energy in the crowd was reverential; most talking had faded away as the curtain rose to reveal the band. All eyes were on the stage, witnesses waiting for their sermon to begin.
The talk of a church-like experience gets blown up a bit in regards to D'Angelo & The Vanguard's live set, but if you're a fan it can be as close to seeing God as you may ever get. All live music has a feeling of spirituality and connectivity, but D'Angelo seems to amp it up to another level with his intensely soulful performance.
The setlist has been the same for every show of the tour, but that only means the band has had a lot of time to perfect their chemistry on stage. The Vanguard might be the best group working today. The switch in late June from Kendra Foster to Joi Gilliam (Dungeon Family collective) seems to have gone off without a hitch. Gilliam is a bit more subdued which leaves more opportunities to focus on the rest of the band.
Pino Palladino has been heralded as the bass master he is, and it's obvious that D'Angelo has absolute trust in his skill. When the band played their final song in this final set, Pino was the last one standing next to D'Angelo (a position he most certainly deserves). Every member gets their moment to shine during different songs. Underrated guitarist Isaiah Sharkey got a big round of applause. His departure from the stage was a good reminder of how close this group is, as he seemed almost near tears giving his bandleader the final goodbye of the tour.
It was an emotional night overall. Through his banter with the audience it was obvious that D'Angelo has been overwhelmed by the reaction to his comeback. He's very gracious to be playing for audiences again and expressing himself both emotionally and musically as articulate as any performer ever. And that emotion ran through the veins of every member of the audience.
This isn't a greatest hits show, though "Brown Sugar" did receive a lot of cheers. The Second Coming Tour is more like an evolving jazz piece, kind of like the opening set from LP Music. The songs flow into one another like they were all written as one piece. The musicians in The Vanguard are talented enough that they can work in breaks for one another and never miss a beat. After a long run of songs, Sharkey can rest a minute while Jesse Johnson plays some lead guitar and vice-versa. D'Angelo often leaves the stage for costume changes or just to take a quick breather while the band continues to play. With a two and a half hour set that's comprised of only 15 songs, you can't blame the guy for sitting out a minute.
The band goes on a month-long break from now until October 1 when they play at Carnegie Hall. They'll play a few more after that and then who knows? Go see them while you can!
PHOTOS BY: KARI TERZINO | WORDS BY: JOSH TERZINO