Funny, I didn’t know dreams actually came true.
Just when you thought getting Anita, Lalah and Rachelle in the same room was awesome enough. Then there was this.
With that said….
It was planned to be a fun trip filled with music, partying, amazing concerts and bonding over old Chapter 8 vinyl records. In the end, it ended up being a bit more work and induced a bit more stabby than I had originally anticipated, but nothing that is any good or of any value comes with ease. In the end, after it was all done… it was worth the effort, time, cussing out of several people and the sudden and unexpected hamstring strain/pull. And I’d do it all over again, just to hear her sing. Proof in point that this woman’s voice can single handedly make ANYTHING better. All the time. For like, 30 years. Wow.
Anyways… after a wonderful flight to New York via Virgin America, a brief stop over at the Hilton Towers and a long stare at the stunning New York view, it was already time to head over to Radio City Music Hall for a bit of work and a lot of fun. Lucky enough to be within walking distance of Radio City Music Hall, I took the opportunity to do what most Angelinos never do in Los Angeles… walk a few blocks to get to my destination. Although this is not the first trip I’ve taken to the Big Apple, it would only be my second time seeing Radio City Music Hall, and my first time ever inside of the venue. Of course the music geek inside of me completely collapsed upon entering the large art deco-style music hall with capacity seating for 5,000+ people. Overwhelmed by the sheer size of it all (doesn’t look that huge from the outside or on TV, people) I took a long walk around the entire venue, its several balconies and entire backstage area while listening to Anita run sound check, fine tune and prep her sound for the show (yes, she is her own sound master/engineer at times, and she’s VERY serious about her sh*t). For me, it was humbling just to be there. Being the quintessential music nerd, I knew one day I would make it inside the hall… but never like this.
After meeting and spending some quality time with Ms. Baker’s amazing band, and then standing on stage to perform my rendition of Randy Watson & The Sexual Chocolate Experience’s “Greatest Love Of All”, I’m sure you can understand how I was feeling really good about the day thus far. However, it quickly became apparent that work needed to be done around the hall; additional guest listing, costuming, lights, whatnot. I was commanded by Ms. Baker to frankly sit my ass down and enjoy the show, and after a long flight, I had full intentions on doing so. But of course, I’m way too nice. I should have sat my butt in my seat backstage and never left my damn seat until instructed. Alas, me being the classic booboo the fool (yes… you were right Ma B, I know), I attempted to help out with things and found myself pulled into business that included finding out promoters and publicists had taken tickets and redistributed them to other people as a priority, and ended up having to fix people messing up guest lists for family members of the band and other people who were left out as a result. I got it done (gatdammit), but I never really had a chance to sit and enjoy the view or even change clothes (oh my struggle was REAL at that point), trying to make sure everyone was seated and comfortable. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Being the type of person I am, I couldn’t rest until I had seating situations fixed, and knew people were taken care of.
After “gently correcting” the people who destroyed the ticket situation and working with the AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL Security Team at RCMH (may God bless you for helping me out that night, yo… you guys were amazing) to make sure everyone was okay, I headed to the main stage to see the rest Ms. Baker’s set. Already 6 songs into the show, it really felt as if I had missed nothing… especially with the show on a PA system that carried the sound of her soothing voice throughout the building. Rocking a beautiful black dress we had picked earlier in the evening, Anita was now thoroughly engaged in entertaining the 5200 guests who had found their way to RCMH that night. Despite taking a year off from touring/performing to prep the new album and to send her sons off to college, Anita Baker owned that stage like she had never left. Already breezing through her trademark classics like Sweet Love, Same Ol Love (365 Days Of The Year), and Mystery (dammit I MISSED THAT), Anita appeared comfortable and at home on stage by the time I got to her. Always delightful and Auntie-Like while on stage, Ms. Baker engaged her fans in conversation, listened to (and occasionally took) requests from the audience, took flowers and gifts that her fans brought to her, and would start her songs with awesome little hype-chants like, “Turn me up! Turn me up! Turn ME UP! Get stupid! Get Stupid! Get Stupid!” (LOL yes she did) before taking the entire audience to Musical Church with that stunning contralto. Hah. There truly is nothing like watching this woman in her zone while she is having a great time. You can watch it yourself too… because you knew I was getting video of this. Video means I had to spend a good chunk of the show being a glorified human tripod (whats up, Wendy) and staying silent for the best sound, but it was worth every minute.
The night progressed beautifully from there, with Bebe Winans joining Anita on stage momentarily for a duet, along with the amazing performance Tyrese gave, duetting his song Lately with Anita live on stage. The transformers star couldn’t stop himself from geeking out throughout the show, shooting me the most adorable “MAMA I MADE IT!” smile ever after wrapping up his time on stage with Anita. To my delight, Anita then did her newest single, Sweetest Dreams from her upcoming album, 21st Century Love. I adore this song, and cannot wait for more people to hear it. After acknowledging her wonderful band, shouting out people like Bill O’Reilly (yes it is true; this dude has a straight up OBSESSION with Anita Baker’s music, do NOT ask me anymore after that), possibly sighting Azalea Banks in the crowd (it REALLY looked like her chillin) and bringing Sherri Shepard up on stage to join her, Ms. Baker then ended the show with Fairy Tales (she DESTROYED it fam, watch the footage) and Body & Soul as her encore. From there, we wrapped and sent Ms. Baker to her room to relax for a minute before meeting and chatting with some of her business associates and people. Meet and Greet time.
In that moment, I took what was left of my energy to try and find some dear friends who had made their way to the show (King Joffer! Stephanie! Ms. Law Tanya! Happy Birthday Chanson! What up Sinnamon. WE MADE IT FAMILY) and tell them thank you for their time. After that, I found my way to the lovely Mjeema so that I could specifically get her to Ms. Baker; it was one of the ONLY things I wanted to do with my night. Once the connection was made and Mjemma got her AnitaHug, photo and time with her… my entire night was complete. We found our way to Ms. Baker’s dressing room where she then toasted her band, Ms. Mjemma for her hard work and the wonderful show with a fine bottle of Riesling. While no one was looking however, I found my way to a private room on hold for me and completely fell out. After close to 36 hours of travel, consistent moving and a strained left hamstring, I was just ready to go home. But even as I laid there, reviewing the footage I had just captured on video, and listening to the good times she was having down the hall…. just to hear this womans voice, and to see that she was happy at the end of the night… made everything worth it.
Exhausted, limpy and a bit fonkay at the end of the night, I found the energy to help Anita’s with her belongs down to the private car. Expecting my own car to come and take me back to my hotel, I connected with the wonderful Lauren (the best employee Radio City Music Hall has ever had, Ima see you in Philly girl… bring the goods) to make sure she knew I loved her, and said a second God Bless You to Rasheed and the greatest security team evar. Walking to Ms. Baker’s car for hugs and byebyes, I was humbled when she yelled at me in total mom voice to get in the car with her. She knew I was exhausted and all limpy, and even though she should have just went to the penthouse and went to sleep, she chose to spend her time with me. Be still, my little heart. I still dont understand what I did that made me worthy of all this, but I wasn’t going to question it in that moment… and hobbled my ass to the car. Anita, gracious as ever, hopped out the car as I got in to sign autographs and take pictures with fans who waited outside after the show and say goodbye. After saying some final goodbyes to some business associates, she hopped back in the car with me and we headed back to her hotel, finally reaching the end of a very long daynight.
You know, its funny. Reading the liner notes of Anita’s albums many moons ago and knowing that she was adopted as a child, I found it heartwarming reassuring and loving that Anita referred to the women who birthed her and the woman who adopted her as her ‘Birth Mother’ and ‘Earth Mother.’ It was sweet to see her acknowledge both the woman who brought her into the world and the one who raised her. I remember sitting back and thinking in that moment, “Gee. I wonder if Anita knows that somewhere between 1979 to 1995, she became the Earth Mother to about 19.8 million children in the United States alone. Give or take a few. I’m one of those kids.” I know a lot of people who personally feel this way: Anita Baker has always been our adopted Momma/Earth Momma/Auntie/Sister/Play cousin/Homie in your head that would talk you through not stabbing multiple people. If she doesn’t know by now… she will know soon.
I don’t know what it is about this woman, but her voice, her presence and the love that she shows in person and through her music… It just, has the power to fix anything. Touch anyone. Make almost everyone feel better. Time and time again. Red-eye flights, pushy publicists, and 97 popped hamstrings couldn’t keep me from doing this again in a HEARTBEAT. The opportunity before me is a gift from God (whatever version of God you believe in) and I hope I get to have this experience again soon. Possibly repeatedly and forever. Best weekend of my life.
But now is the time where I shut up and let you watch all the awesome video that I was able to capture, along with some great footage the homies were able to catch. Enjoy the footage. There is more coming.
Her newest single, Sweetest Dream:
Lately with Tyrese. At 2:28 into the video is probably the best part:
Sweet Love (captured by a good friend. LOL at people and the “YOU’D BETTER SANG” comments):
Fairy Tales (I’m not being biased, she DESTROYED this shit son. Somewhere around 2:17, she looked at me and decided to take it to CHURCH. The best part? PLEASE watch the sound manager in the background of this video absolutely JAMMING OUT for the entire duration of the song. I shoulda been over there with him; he was getting the party was STARTED. Watch.):
No but seriously, I’m going to go elevate my swollen left leg. If youre interested, I have a nice live show of Anita’s that you can download by clicking here. Please enjoy the videos above, allow me some time to not stare at a computer, and I really hope you enjoy.