‘Ledisi Sings Nina Simone’ lights up the Hollywood Bowl

HOLLYWOOD, CA (News4usonline) – The Hollywood Bowl was popping with good vibes and even better music when one of today’s best soulful artist showed up to do an ode to a singing legend.

There’s not a lot of singers in today’s genre who can match the gritty and deep-throated ferocity of Nina Simone.

You can most assuredly count them on one hand.

Even still, you would have to go through the tumbleweeds of great soul singers to filter through to see who comes closest to the vocal power and range of Grammy winner Ledisi. Let’s see, Chaka Khan, the late great Phyllis Hyman, and Mary J. Blige comes to mind.

Before someone mentions Whitney Houston, she’s in a class all by herself.

But this article review is not about other singers. This is about how wondrous and beautiful it is to hear Ledisi in person. I have to admit even though I have been a fan of Ledisi, this was my first time seeing this incredible artist live and in person. What a treat!

I can’t believe I have never seen this great singer perform live. The billed “Ledisi Sings Nina Simone” concert was well worth seeing.

You know the saying that the first impression is usually a lasting impression. Well, from the moment that she walked out on the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, the synergy of greatness seemed to ooze out from Ledisi. And why shouldn’t it.

Ledisi is a 12-time Grammy-nominated powerhouse. If you want somebody who can rear back and holler, Ledisi can most assuredly do so. That’s not what makes her amazing as a vocalist.

Accompanied by Thomas Wilkins and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the July 24 outdoor concert, Ledisi showed off the depth to her singing ability, going up and down with her vocal theatrics and hitting every note like it was a walk in the park, although she admitted to the sold-out crowd that it was tough trying to emulate the singing power of Simone.   

But before we could treat the Ledisi dazzled us spectators with, Wilkins and the LA Philharmonic got the evening going with some pretty nice numbers that set the tone for the evening. Wilkins, principal conductor of the LA Philharmonic, ushered in the mood in preparation for what the audience could expect from the Hollywood Bowl’s guest soloist.

July 24, 2021-Ledisi with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Thomas Wilkins. Photo credit Ron Young on behalf of Ledisi

For roughly a little more than a half an hour, Wilkins and the LA Philharmonic brought numbers like “Three Black Kings,” “Harlem Street Scene,” “Juba Dance from Symphony No. 1” (E minor) and lit up the evening with “Danse Negre No. 4 from African Suite” and “Fantasia and Fugue in C minor.”

Wilkins and the LA Philharmonic were a little more than fantastic as they warmed up the stage with the best R&B singer going today. In fact, the music coming from the LA Philharmonic was so mesmerizing and relaxing that it put me in such a trance that I nearly forgot that Ledisi was coming out to do her thing after intermission.

Ledisi didn’t waste time shaking me out of that trance. Sometimes some artists kind of shrink at the moment when they are called to perform. That’s not the case with Ledisi. When people talk about owning the moment they might want to take notes of Ledisi when she is on stage.

I will tell you I was blown away by the singer the minute she strutted out on stage in a loud, eye-catching outfit with her hair done unapologetically made to fit her as the crown to the new Queen of R&B. Well, let’s back that statement up. Ledisi is not a newbie to this rodeo. She’s been there and done that.

What’s different is her take on some of the musical numbers that highlighted Simone’s career. As I stated earlier, there are not too many people who can emulate the deep, throaty range of Simone. Ledisi impresses in that she does not try to go where only Simone can go.

What Ledisi does is tackle some of Simone’s top hits and turned the songs into her very own masterpiece of work.

July 24, 2021-Ledisi with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Thomas Wilkins.
Photo credit Ron Young on behalf of Ledisi

Ok, I have to break out with some truth. I am not as well-acclimated on Simone’s music as my wife is, but I am familiar with her songs. One example is the often-played “Feeling Good.” By belting out this Simone staple, Ledisi got her set off to a rousing start in front of the jazz and R&B-laden audience.

By crossing over into the jazz music scene by covering Simone, Ledisi was able to enjoy the love coming from both musical genres. And it showed from after every song she completed on the night. The energy of the concert was set after Ledisi powerfully belted out “Feeling Good,” which she added her own flavor to the song.

Good music does something to the soul. Sitting and listening to Ledisi offer up Simone’s songs made everything chill for the hour plus time that she was on stage. After “Feeling Good,” Ledisi proceeded to go down the list of the hits, covering Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” “Trouble in Mind/Do I Move You,” “Be My Husband,” and “Baltimore/Shot Down,” among others.

It’s been a while since I have thoroughly enjoyed myself at a musical concert. Then again, a lot of people might share that same sentiment since all of America has been in some form of secluded shut down for nearly two years due to the spread of Covid-19. The fact the concert went off is a minor miracle in itself. It was a blessing. 

If you have never seen Ledisi perform you are missing out on a treat. Ledisi can command a stage unlike other performers. Her vocals are lively and the pipes can hang with anyone. More importantly, what works well for Ledisi is that she engages her audience like she would have a sit down conversation with a next door neighbor.

She’s fun. She’s witty. And she is certainly entertaining. So what are my thoughts after catching this singing siren for the first time? Well, I guess I have been selling myself short all these years. With her performance at the Hollywood Bowl, Ledisi officially made me an even bigger fan.

Featured Image Caption: July 24, 2021-Ledisi with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Thomas Wilkins. Photo credit Ron Young on behalf of Ledisi