They were a mostly over 50 crowd, waiting for her with eager heartfelt anticipation. It had been a long time coming, but here she was taking the stage at the Vogel, part of the Count Basie Theater. Her first time in Red Bank, she said, and the crowd cheered her on with their approval, and maybe with the hope that it wouldn’t be the last time. Meshell Ndegeocello moved onto the stage amid cheers and love.
She opened smooth and gentle with “Saving Grace” and then to “Take Me Down to the River.” This show was the first stop on her summer tour – just easy grooving to get the night started.
This was a crowd that definitely knew her and her music, so she offered a mix of originals, and then she swung into “Outside Your Door.” The audience was on it, so she pointed the mike at the crowd and they took it on. From her earlier work, she offered up “Waterfalls” (TLC) and “Stir It Up” (Marley), but perhaps nothing was more guitar-wailing, rock-funk fun than her take on Parliament Funkadelics’ “Nothing but the Dog in Me.” And no, Meshell, we don’t know why you must chase the cat!
Then, on “Take My Hand, Come Closer,” she exhorted the audience to stand up. “The music will fill your body!” she told them. She told them it was nice to be back out performing. “Live music is special,” she said “We can’t do it without you.”
An hour-and-a-half flew by, amid her asking “Y’all all right?” and several responses of “I love you!” to which she quipped “That’s cause you don’t have to live with me!” The German-Born singer, rapper, funky bass player came by her musical gifts honestly, and even though this was her first time at the Basie, her father — a saxophonist — got to play with the Count twice, she told the audience.
Then it was over. Meshell introduced the band, thanked us for coming, and then they left the stage in the midst of cheers, applause, and calls of “ENCORE!” Happily, they came back out with “Clear Water,” the title song of their current album. It will have to be enough for now. The tour continues next week in Minneapolis, but just in case you need more Ndegeocello in the near future, she’ll be in New York City on June 21. Her new album, “The Omnichord Real Book” will be available June 16.