Photography by Eric Sandler
Meshell Ndegeocello came full circle playing a much needed, intimate set as an homage to her 1999 album Bitter. Stripped down to the bare essentials with Deantoni Parks on drums, Chris Bruce on guitar, and herself on bass and vocals, Meshell went back to her roots of laid back, R&B tunes peppered with occasional epiphanies of funk and philosophical ponderings such as "time is an allusion." No explanation except for the music was given, not that anyone from this weekend's Joe's Pub audience expected one from her.
Going back all the way to her first album, Plantation Lullabies through Cookie and The World Has Made Me the Man of my Dreams it is evident that Meshell's creative interests are sporadic and unpredictable. Between R&B and hip-hop, Meshell made a name for herself as one of the scene's most multi-talented acts, not to mention her undeniable vocal prowess. Yet, the last few years have been tumultuous for fans of her soul musings as she has branched into some bizarre tangents. 2007 and 2008 saw concerts with Mark Kelley on bass and Meshell experimenting with non-typical vocal works that disappointed some fans (this guy included). As 2009 came around Meshell released Devil's Halo which brought her back to more familiar territory.
With Meshell currently residing in this type of feel, it is no wonder Bitter follows her signature recipe, though she admitted this would be the last time the album would be performed she said, as she chuckled more to herself than anyone else, "it's called Bitter for a reason, it's so fucking depressing. It's mind altering shit." After leaving the bitterness behind, the band, with the addition of Mark Kelley, broke into a couple of new songs with a more upbeat feel. Though it was a short set, definitely worth it to see Meshell go back to what we love her for.