ACL Review: Solange

The other Knowles sister chronicles black America

Solange’s career took a turn with 2016’s A Seat at the Table, and so, too, did her live performances. Her quirky dance moves, carried out in tandem with her band, and penchant for color-coordinated outfits remain, but those are the only relics of what was once a lighthearted jaunt in line with Sixties-era girl groups like the Shirelles.

Photo by Gary Miller

Now, Solange (Knowles), 31, has elevated her performances into an elegant, powerful experience with a message. She’s shifted her focus from pure entertainment to challenging her audiences with the issue of race. The crowd at ACL’s Barton Springs stage Friday night was all ears.

Her backing sevenpiece played her onto a red-lit stage 15 minutes late, so the bandleader immediately launched into the first three tracks from A Seat at the Table. “I’m weary of the ways of the world,” she sang out on early R&B track “Weary,” no doubt to an audience that, after this week, could identify with the sentiment. “Cranes in the Sky,” her ode to working through pain as a black woman in America, took flight immediately afterward, Solange’s soprano mimicking her impressive vocal play on the album flawlessly.

The Houston-born singer did dip back into her earlier work occasionally. She twerked during bass-heavy banger “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work,” and “Losing You” hyped the crowd. Still, the bulk of the show focused on A Seat at the Table, which appeared to play as group therapy for the people of color in the crowd.

During “F.U.B.U.,” she leaned down toward audience members in the front row, singing directly to them.

“All my n***as in the whole wide world,
Made this song to make it all y’all’s turn.
For us, this shit is for us.”

Friday’s set wasn’t dissimilar from Solange’s SXSW performance at Copper Tank in March, a much smaller staging that only her most dedicated fans experienced following hours of lines. Translating A Seat at the Table for a festival crowd, with its divided attention and booze-soaked expectations of hype, showed her focus on spreading the album’s exploration on what it means to be black in America.

The overwhelmingly white audience, in turn, offered its attention. These songs weren’t for them. Solange forced the crowd to do what music, at its core, should always achieve.

She made them listen.

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More Solange
SXSW Music Live: Solange
SXSW Music Live: Solange
Soft, vulnerable, and in control

Abby Johnston, March 16, 2017

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Solange, ACL Fest 2017, Solange Knowles, A Seat at the Table, Beyoncé Knowles

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