Last night I went with my boo, my friend/former roomie, and another best friend all squeezed into a booth (and I do mean SQUEEZED!) at Joe’s Pub last night to hear what soul singer Donnie had to deliver this evening. His is on a promotional tour for his upcoming CD, The Daily News.
I first heard of Donnie back in Fall 2002 when The Colored Section, his first full legnth CD was released (the album would later be re-released by Motown in 2003, whom Donnie does not seem to be working with any longer). I was in Tower Records in Greenwich Village, when I passed the CD on a shelf. I was initially attracted to the design and colors of the CD, but also was intrigued by this deep brown-skinned bohemian looking cutie on the cover, who looked like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
And I think I was correct. The Colored Section featured a classic soul music sound, with this singer who sounded like a corss between the other Donnie (Hathaway) and Stevie Wonder. He also sang with an immediacy, an intensity about everything from the state of Black America, to loving nappy hair, to 9-11. It was one of those CDs that I played for everyone I knew, who in turn played it for everyone they knew.
But last night, after nearly three years since Motown re-released his debut (and then–in my opinion– did absolutely nothing to promote it beyond his core audience, who by that time already had the CD), Donnie hit the stage at Joe’s Pub with a force only a scorpio could muster.
He was rocking charcoal grey slacks, a white oxford (untucked), and a red tie, as the 3-piece band (keys, drums, and bass guitar) and 3 background singers launched into the title track from the upcoming disc, The Daily News. His hour +2 encore set included about half new tracks, and you know they’re good when the audience is singing the chorus to songs they are hearing for the first time. New York can also be a pretty tough crowd, but Donnie had the crowd (me included) in the palm of his hands.
Vocally he was top-form. Donnie is a smart vocalist who knows he has a voice with so many textures and layers, and such interesting melodies and thoughtful lyrics that he doesn’t need to over-sing the songs, a concept which many artists in his generation with as much virtuosity (and many with much less), can’t seem to grasp.
But adding to his incredible vocals is his amazing background singers (one of whom, Rahbi, has an album currently on the shelves). I think only since Luther Vandross have I seen a male vocalist with such exquisite background vocalists – all of whom are soloists in their own right, but know how to work together to enhance the lead.
As usual, Donnie talked and sang to the audience about current issues of the day– the latest airline restrictions & the war on terror, men on the DL, AIDS and homophobia, child sexual abuse.
His set way too short, and he didn’t do Clould 9, but Joes’ Pub had booked another show, so he had to stop at two encores, and the audience was clearly pissed. How many times do you get that at a show?
I am really thrilled to hear The Daily News, which drops on September 26. Here Donnie interviews about this record.
ALSO: New Footage from the show on You TUBE: