Originally published in Beat Magazine.
Acknowledging Badu as one of her musical inspirations back at a Northcote Social gig last year, Nai Palm was giddy when recalling the moment she found out that the queen of soul was digging her beats with Hiatus Kaiyote. Who would have thought that less than a year later, she and her band would be joining Badu on an Australian tour. The quirky, polyrhythmic Melbourne band are an acquired taste; drunk on off beats and complicated compositions. Their music isn’t for everyone, but those that love them – myself included – can’t get enough of them. They played a tight set, showcasing some new material. A band more suited to a less formal venue, their cover of Dilla’s So Far To Go was so dope that it was a real bitch being confined to the limited standing space. A killer set regardless, be sure to see them heat up the floor at their Howler residency next month.
Now, Badu. Dressed in a get-up that only she could pull off, the queen was wearing an ensemble of clothes that looked like they’d been picked off the floor of an op-shop. A headscarf, a Pharrell-esque hat, a flanny shirt with only the top button done up, those street pants that sag at the butt and then loosen up around the thighs and another mismatched thing around her waist. Like I said, nobody else could have pulled that off. She sounded great and performed well, despite it being nearly two decades since her Baduizm debut. She proved her range, switching effortlessly between vocals and rhymes. She also opened the beat in many of her tracks by slapping a vacant drum pad, quite well too.
Ignoring the Palais’ conservative aesthetic, she soon had everyone dancing. Unlike her early sets where she would come out with her turban, incense and spirituality, this gig felt more ghetto. There were a lot of songs that she didn’t sing that I wished she had and she dragged on a few choruses longer than was necessary. She also didn’t do an encore, which left her performance a bit abrupt. She had a habit of doing these exaggerated poses that came off as a little affected, due to the sheer number of times they were done. Her band was great, but nobody really took notice of them. It would have been cool if she’d added a horn player to the section, just to give the guys a bit of fair play.
She was eternally grateful of her audience and her setting and she often voiced it throughout the set. She improvised well when it came to spitting rhymes and she made us laugh a lot with her impromptu wordplay about loose headscarves. Ultimately, she delivered a thrilling set, however self-indulgent it may have been. Yes Badu, your legs and arse may be getting bigger, but you were and always will be twenty feet tall.