After years astray, D’Angelo triumphantly returns home to Virginia

Posted by: brad – Jun 24, 2015


14 years after his last album release, and three years since his last tour, the odds seemed stacked against Richmond native and renowned R&B performer D’Angelo. After his blockbuster debut, 1995's Brown Sugar, and the iconic 2000 release Voodoo, rumors of a third album seemed a distant possibility as personal struggles caused continued delays.

But the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner drove the then 40-year-old musician to rush the release of Black Messiah in late 2014. Applauded by fans and critics alike as his best album to date and a pillar of the #blacklivesmatter movement, the release signified the return of D’Angelo to his former greatness at the forefront of popular music.

Naturally this lead to the announcement of live performances dubbed "The Second Coming Tour" with his 10-piece band, The Vanguard. Norfolk was the closest date to his hometown Richmond, and the homecoming energy was in the air on Saturday night as he took the stage.

During a career-spanning, 2 and a half hour set at The Norva, D’Angelo and the Vanguard were tight but loose, well-practiced and living in the moment. The band seemed at the top of their game, driven by the jubilant efforts of their energetic frontman.

D’Angelo shined as a singer and bandleader, and members of The Vanguard displayed their individual talents especially during new arrangements of “Really Love” and “Brown Sugar.” He spent much of the night with a wide smile pointing to friends in the audience, fist-bumping and high-fiving seemingly everyone in the first few rows.

The set featured songs from all three records, climaxing with an encore of “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” where each member soloed and exited the stage to copious applause, leaving D’Angelo alone at the piano singing the refrain.

D’Angelo’s influence and inspiration of Richmond performers was as present as ever at the homecoming show, as many local musicians and music-lovers braved the storm to groove.

We asked some of these longtime fans to share their thoughts on the performance and how D’Angelo’s music has impacted them, listed below:

Corey Fonville – Drummer, Butcher Brown

I remember being five years old and my father coming home with Brown Sugar back in 1995. D’Angelo’s voice has been in my ears for 20 years now, and to see/hear him evolve in that time is incredible. He's always been great, but this dude is unstoppable.

Andrew Carper – Bassist, The Southern Belles and Bandrew

I was stunned by the musicianship of each member of the band. They were completely comfortable and effortless in the execution, but never stopped having a blast up there. I felt like I was witnessing a living legend in his prime.

Nacho Babbowski – Light Designer, Crazy Tank Productions

I really enjoyed “The Charade.” It was a somber moment in an otherwise upbeat and celebratory show. D’Angelo dedicated the song to “the nine lives lost in Charleston” and asked the audience to raise a fist in the air. It was a powerful symbol.

I also appreciated the light designer’s use of red and blue strobes timed out to look like police lights bouncing off the wonderfully shaded background during the chorus as D’Angelo is singing “All we wanted was a chance to talk/ instead we only got outlined in chalk.” What a touch!

Raphael Katchinoff – Drummer, The Milkstains and The Southern Belles

Seeing Jay Leavitt, the owner of Deep Groove, getting down and dancing his ass off was definitely a highlight. Also the fact that D’Angelo gave so much love and respect to his band was awesome to see. Every member of the band was just putting it all out there. It was just beyond inspiring.

Marcus Tenney – Trumpet, No BS Brass Band

D'Angelo has influenced my work as a musician in a very significant way. His music always has a certain level of swagger in it. I have always felt his music very deeply and I want people to feel my music in the same way.

When Voodoo came out, everyone I knew at the time had “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” on repeat, so to hear him play and sing it by him self on stage was a bit overwhelming.

Marc Cheatham – Founder, The Cheats Movement

Honestly, the entire show was amazing. I'm fairly new to Black Messiah. I didn't listen right away when it came out, so hearing the new tracks live made it a good night. Honestly, the best part was the energy in the venue and how he fed off it.

Clinton Spell – Studio Manager, Rainmaker Studios

D'Angelo looked healthy and sounded amazing. He lead the band much like James Brown used to in his heyday, and it was powerful to see how in command he was over the entire show.

His sound is timeless, and so are the messages in his song. Brown Sugar and Voodoo don't sound dated. A good groove and a good message don't have an expiration date.

By Craig Zirpolo