Solange Knowles glides onto the Panorama Festival stage on New York City’s Randall’s Island on Friday night (June 28), smile bright as she looks out into the colorful crowd. Draped in a ribbed turtleneck, wide legged pants and patent leather block heels, she stops center stage, glowing as she bows before her audience. Formalities out of the way, her expression flickers into a stern gaze as she turns so that her profile faces the audience. A team of musicians rallied around her, Solange is ready to work.
A pile of soft mahogany curls cascading down her back, Solange seems a free and fearless leader as two back-up vocalists mirror her every move. It’s an intricately choreographed display. When she abruptly bows forward then pops up, one singer follows suit on the next beat, and the third shortly does the same. This meticulous synchronization is a performance element that fans will enjoy throughout the entire experience. Having created and composed the show herself, Solange leads her singers and band in a dynamic dance, each member shifting positions, sounds, and expressions to create a visually stunning spectacle.
Presence firmly established, Solange addresses her crowd. “How you feeling tonight?” she asks, gearing up for the next song as its melody plays in the background. Fans roar as she instructs them to “sing it if you feel it,” before starting into “Cranes In The Sky.” And they do. A melting pot of cultural backgrounds, ages and life stages, most shout out the song’s lyrics as Solange glides through one of the most notable tracks from 2016’s A Seat at the Table.
By the time the band begins the melody for “Don’t You Wait,” the sun is setting on Randall’s Island. Streaks of blue and orange illuminate the sky, infusing the venue with a fitting vibe that aligns with the shows shifting tempo. “Are we gonna dance tonight,” Solange asks as she twerks, her back turned to the crowd. Fans delighted, Solange and her crew vogue and bounce through a few highlights of the artist’s 15-year musical journey.
Soon, Solange has brought the show back to her latest album, harmonizing her way through an extended version of “Mad.” Solange’s passion in defending her values has been a consistent treat for fans throughout her career. Her “Mad” performance seems an artistic expression of that character, with Solange twisting her neck and flipping her hair unapologetically as she sings, “I got a right to be mad. You got a right to be mad.” Next up is “For Us By Us,” but for this song Solange gleefully steps down from the massive stage to approach eager front row fans. While a metal barricade stands between her and the crowd, Solange scouts out her ‘us,’ a group of young brown girls, and shares the mic as all belt out the song’s lyrics together.
After introducing her stage team, Solange segues into a medley of older hits with a passionate performance of “Bad Girls,” a stripped down rendition of “T.O.N.Y,” and an energetic performance of “Losing You” that prompts the crowd to turn the grassy field into an impromptu dance floor.
And with that, Solange struts off the stage, her crown of curls bouncing behind her. The crowd begins to recede, until a flash of lights and a familiar melody draw everyone back in. Solange reemerges. Her show is not complete without one special song. Her band providing the introduction, Solange is animated as she starts into “Don’t Touch My Hair,” clearly a crowd favorite. Hands raised high, fans chant “what ya say to me” as Solange excitedly sings the chorus to the show’s finale song. Then, as she readies to leave the stage, an authentically appreciative Solange offers a farewell wish to her growing legion of fans: “peace and love and blessings.”
–Written by Shaira B.
(Photo by Nikki Jahanforouz for Goldenvoice | Video footage by Niko Poort)