SXSW Live Shot: Kelis/Cody Chesnutt
Nina Simone meets Al Green?
By Chase Hoffberger, 2:57PM, Fri. Mar. 14
Tough to imagine, sometimes, that an hour-and-a-half wait for a 40-minute showcase could be truly worth it, but then Kelis has long defied logic. The onetime “Milkshake” manufacturer demanded every soundcheck practice conceivable on Thursday night, finally going on at 1:20am after driving away a few spectators.
“I’m not going to sing until I’m all ready,” she smiled. “So don’t rush me.”
Strapped with a ninepiece band that included four hornsmen and two singers, the 34-year-old New York City native teased Nina Simone with her “Feeling Good” before sorting through a variety of soul, big band voodoo jazz, Nineties R&B, and a two-step that harked on the Talking Heads. Kelis’ voice sounded pristine when flipping from a smoke-filled drawl into those high C notes Mariah Carey’s known to hit. Someone remind me: Why were we all booing Kelis during that soundcheck?
Some two hours earlier, Atlanta soul embodiment Cody Chesnutt channeled Al Green and Anthony Kiedis out front of a crack soul quartet pushing jam after jam off 2012 redressing Landing on a Hundred. In his red cardigan and retro army helmet, the 45-year-old brandished ageless energy and an instrumental-like voice, offering a wide range on extended opener “That’s Still Mama” and drawing out the intro to “Everybody’s Brother” like a slinky.
When he wasn’t playing guitar, Chesnutt moved around like Sam & Dave. He bounced around like a prize fighter, ad libbed lines to close out “Till I Met Thee,” and took that big breakdown towards the end of “Under the Spell of a Handout” deep into the pocket.
His closer, a lively rendition of “Gunpowder on the Letter,” which he recorded with Gary Clark Jr., had people dancing from the benches.