There’s a reason you’ve probably heard of Andra Day.
It might be her Apple commercial during the holidays with Stevie Wonder. It might be her earth shattering Tiny Desk concert. It might be her song in “What Happened Ms. Simone?” It might be her distinctive look, hoops included. It might be her song “Rise Up,” which just yesterday received a new “Inspiration” music video.
But what about wiping off her make-up during a show? What about rocking a unique cover of Queen’s “I Want It All” so hard that she sang from her knees on-stage? What about her awesome band whom she refers to as “master shredders” and “sisters?”
Andra Day, now, can add these to a list of reasons we know her, on top of opening for Toni Braxton at the concluding night of 2016’s Grammy Park Music Festival, presented by the Grammy Foundation and M&M’s on Sunday May 8th.
Andra Day stated those words, “confidence is power,” as she took off her make-up on stage, an act of defiance and confidence in front of hundreds. It was an act that spoke just as powerfully as the lyrics of the songs she chose that night: “This is a show tune. But the show hasn’t been written for it, yet.” “I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again.”
It was meaningful appetizer that didn’t so much prep you for a main course as change up the menu with different options of power all night long, both for her and Toni Braxton: Female power, vocal power, family power, (dying) power packs…. and yes, mother power, of course.
A show on Mother’s Day indeed calls for Moms to have their time in the spotlight. Tonight, though, they’d have to share it with many: messages about confidence, the entire Braxton family, guitarists with heavy, fast, solos, newly acquired keyboardists with slick skills, men who popped on stage to try and sing like Babyface, Toni’s two short and sparkly dresses, an older veteran, mic issues, the audience as they were invited to sing, and lastly, packets of M & M’s, which at the end of the show, suddenly seemed like the world’s hottest commodity item.
For 7-time Grammy winner Toni Braxton, confidence is the freedom to do whatever you’d like on stage. In front of her devoted fans, many of whom referred to her by her first name, like a best friend, she launched into hit after hit including “Un-break My Heart” and “He Wasn’t Man Enough” (all of which were splashed on stage at the beginning of the show just to remind you). She also included a few surprises, such as “Shadowless.” For many of her songs, she invited audience members on stage, including several moms, to sing alongside her. And audience members weren’t the only surprise guests that graced the stage: Toni’s mother, sons, and sister Tamar came to say hello as well.
Toni wielded that power to move completely off the stage when persistent sound problems seemingly plagued her performance. Throughout the set, she constantly informed the audience, “I can’t hear anything. Can you help me out?” Despite these questions, and her frustrations, she was never actually off key. Nonetheless, she moved her and her sisters off the stage to hear better creating a real treat for those in the front rows: an opportunity to take selfies with Toni.
The confidence continued in unexpected ways. As she jumped into a cover of The Isley Brother’s “Between the Sheets,” the audience suspected where she might be headed (who doesn’t know that iconic sample?). Their curiosity was rewarded as Braxton announced “Let’s change it up a bit!” and transitioned, a little too naturally, into “Big Poppa.” As the crowd lost their mind, and Toni concluded: “What, you didn’t know that I could rap?”
Andra brought covers in too, performing a riveting version of Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” and a personal version of Kendrick Lamar’s “No Make-Up (Her Vice)” the song in which she removed her own make-up and made her statement: Confidence is Freedom.
Andra framed her show as a conversation; one where the band just “happened to be a little louder.” If Andra’s show was a conversation, Toni’s show was a celebration. Andra gave you advice to survive, and Toni celebrated the life you lived. Moms may have been there for Toni, but it was Andra whose messages and performance stick out for all generations.