Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Beautiful Brooklyn Afternoon with Bilal

Today the neo-soul gods were smiling. Bilal Oliver baptized a bohemian standing-room crowd in a downtown Brooklyn park with his anointed, soul-stirring musings.  It was a scene straight out of a Howard University Homecoming gathering on the Yard.  Natural hairstyles bobbed to the gospel-delic soul, blues and jazz that came shrieking from Bilal's diminutive frame. Tyra tells top models to model from head-to-toe. Bilal sings from head-to -toe.

I've been a fan of the Philly kid since his cult classic debut, 1st Born Second, dropped in 2001.  Since then he's been a fixture on stage and in the studio with Common and Erykah Badu.  Bilal has the silver-tongued swagger of a revival tent preacher, the quirky cool of Miles, and the falsetto-blessed sex appeal of Prince. He slowly wooed the predominantly brown and beautiful female audience with new and old material.

The afternoon hit a crescendo during his live rendition of the self-deprecating and self-affirming testament "Sometimes." By the time he and his confident band grooved their way into "Soul Sista," Bilal's soul-stirring spell had been cast.  It's a wonder no one threw their panties on stage.  He was called back for an encore and still left us wanting more.

Bilal's highly-anticipated new album, Airtight's Revenge, will drop on September 14. The release will be celebrated that same date with a performance at B.B. King's in Times Square.