Finding an album that stands on its own as an artistic triumph from end to end is a rarity in this generation. With the ever-growing desire for instant gratification, it is more times than not a losing battle to pacify a millennial long enough to sit through an entire listening from first song to last. Devonté Hynes who is better known under his solo project named Blood Orange has lived up to the challenge, creating a masterfully emotional, political, and poignant third album Freetown Sound. Hynes has received critical acclaim across the board after releasing it earlier this summer. Last Night, The Theatre at Ace Hotel in the heart of downtown Los Angeles hosted the first of two sold out evenings with Blood Orange and special guests in celebration of this successful album which was played in its entirety. Whether it is Kendrick Lamar pimping a butterfly or D’Angelo soulfully serenading us through a racially charged year, Blood Orange’s peers are some of the greatest contemporary musical artists who strive to fill the void for more work from their respective inspirations, drawing in classic musical elements and transforming them into something fresh, new and relevant.
The original United Artists venue was refurbished in recent years as the Theatre at Ace Hotel. The ornate architecture in the restored movie house provides a visually impressive setting for housing a live music event. The intimacy of the venue is amplified by the close-quarter seating throughout. Blood Orange added to the visual appeal of the experience with three professional dancers and a constant shadow game playing at the back of the stage. Sloppy as his dance moves may have seemed, he whole-heartedly sang, danced, and dabbled with different instruments throughout the night. His outfit completed the look – his top half transplanted straight out of a ’90s sitcom with a white t-shirt and a black leather baseball cap, whereas his bottom half channeled a Michael Jackson’s 30th anniversary style with black high-waters, white tube socks and soft black lace-up oxfords. Antics aside, he captured the audience’s attention with his epic live translation of Freetown Sound’s powerful politically charged message and entertained with the additions of some of the album’s collaborators joining him on stage. First up was the “Call Me Maybe” mistress Carly Rae Jepsen who has recently taken a turn for the alternative. Her sweet demeanor and airy voice instantly lighten the mood as she helps him sing “Better than Me.” Later, Zuri Marley joins him for “Love Ya” and Nelly Furtado glitters onto the stage in a silver foil gown to sing “Hadron Collider.” “Best to You” featuring Lorley Rodriguez who performs her own music under the moniker Empress Of was the highlight of the night. The fun and lively beat finally brought the entire seated room to its feet.
By the time Blood Orange reached his final song for the night “I Know,” it felt like he could go on forever, but he simply walked off stage after the song and never returned. To the crowd’s confusion, house lights immediately went up and ambient hip hop started playing. Without the irksome live streaming Tidal cameras constantly crossing in front of the stage during the performance and the perplexing abrupt ending to the show, the night seemed otherwise flawless. Luckily, there are more opportunities to catch Hynes live. Blood Orange continues his two-night stand at Ace tonight and then goes on to play FYF Festival in Los Angeles this coming weekend.
Ashlee Haze (slam poetry intro)
Better Than Me (featuring Carly Rae Jepsen)
But You/ Time Will Tell*
Love Ya (featuring Zuri Marley)
You’re Not Good Enough*
Hadron Collider (featuring Nelly Furtado)
Best To You (featuring Empress Of)
It Is What It Is*
*off Cupid Deluxe
photo credit: Sharon Alagna