The week kicked off in a special way for New York on Monday night at the free, word-of-mouth Musiq Soulchild concert sponsored by the House of Courvosier. It was old school meets new school as the legendary Biz Markie hit the ones and twos before Mr. Musiq stalked the stage in a black-leather jacket, matching newsboy cap, dookie rope, and shell-toe Adidas.
With Musiq's fourth album, Luvanmusiq, holding the #1 spot on the Billboard chart since it dropped a week ago, the night was one of celebration for the Philly soul star. It was also a reminder to fans, even within a brief 10-song set, just how many hits this man has penned over his seven-year career-from 2000's Aijuswanaseing and 2002's Juslisen to 2003's Soulstar and today's best seller.
The 29-year-old with the mean falsetto kicked things off with his signature no-pressure love song "Just Friends" from his debut disc and got the party started when he saddled up on a stool, stripped off his jacket, and belted out the crowd favorite, love-gone-wrong tale "Halfcrazy." After asking the audience how many of them bought his new disc, it was time to test them with Luvanmusiq's "Teachme," which featured a pleading Musiq at his most vulnerable: "Teach me how to love/How I can get my emotions involved/Teach me/Show me how to love/Show me the way to surrender my heart."
With the ladies already swaying, Musiq ran through three oldies-but-goodies: the heartbreak cut "Mary Go Round," the frustration-laden "Previouscats," and the soaring unconditional-love tune "Dontchange." Then came the goose bump-inducing moment of the night. After a simple keyboard intro that was recognizable to the entire room, Musiq's low vocals cut through the air, thick with anticipation: "Love . . ." It seems that's all that was needed. The crowd finished the rest of the song with him and shook their heads and scrunched up their faces as the crooner moved his hand up and down an imaginary scale and hit every seemingly impossible note, some pitches so high you stopped hearing them.
A cooldown joint would seem logical, but Musiq pushed things up-tempo with "Onenight" then tested the audience's loyalty once again with "Soulstar," the title track off of his lowest-selling album. Once he realized the entire room was chanting every lyric, a gaping grin appeared. "I'm hyped now!" Musiq shouted, bounding around the stage before going back to his role as salesman. "Thanks to y'all, Luvanmusiq is the #1 album in the country. That's just crazy to me," he said. Then, with the stage lights moving frantically through a rainbow spectrum, Musiq and his five-piece band launched into lead single "B.U.D.D.Y.," which, with its "Just Friends"-like story line, brought the evening full circle.
Although Musiq made a few attempts to leave, it was clear he was still feeding off of the crowd's energy. So instead of exiting the stage, he played hype-man and invited BET personality Big Tigga to freestyle and got Biz Markie to bless the mike with his incredible beatbox skills. After Musiq and his backup singers showed off a comical medley of old-school hip-hop moves like the Wop, Cabbage Patch, and Roger Rabbit to a room full of laughter, it was finally the end to a performance that certainly deserved a standing soul-clap.
Attention R&B fans: If you haven't seen Musiq Soulchild live, you haven't seen one of the best performers today. No choreography, no gimmicks-just pure, feel-good modern soul. Thankfully, you have a chance to see if you're luvin' Musiq as much as New York. He's hitting DC 4/2, Atlanta 4/5, Miami 4/11, Detroit 4/15, London 4/20, and Oslo 4/21. Check myspace.com/musiqsoulchild for additional tour dates.