While the industry continues to mass-produce gilded R&B starlets, singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele is one of the few whose vocals are truly golden. Performing at the Keswick Theater on Sunday night, she entertained a full house with an acrobatic vocal ability that remains far underserved on the radio. This was not a concert for those interested in industry smoke and mirrors. There were no costume changes. There was no choreography, save one tiny ballerina who danced en pointe during a few numbers. There was neither synthetic hair nor wind machines present. This was a concert about music.
Three albums in, and it’s clear that none of her recordings do any justice to the true wonderment of her live vocals, which are the aural version of rubbing one’s hand against the grain of velvet – supple, textured and indulgent. “Golden,” a wedding favorite from her debut album I Am was remixed up-tempo; Epiphany’s “Porcelain Doll” was refit to a church melody befitting the Sunday appearance. She scatted her way through the night, her ability so astounding that I actually believed there was a horn on stage until I looked up.
Chrisette Michele’s writing talents shown brightly on “If Nobody Sang Along,” from her latest Let Freedom Reign, which she sang breathtakingly under a spotlight in a champagne-colored cocktail dress. In it she contemplates whether she’d “like being just like the other girls” in favor of increased success. But it is because of her artistic choices, not in spite of them, that Chrisette Michelle has amassed a true and intimate following like the one found at the Keswick, where women waved their arms as they sang passionately that former lovers should “Blame It On Me.” Since her debut, she has also crossed into some of hip-hop's most coveted circles, singing hooks for Jay-Z, Nas, and most recently Rick Ross’ chart-topping “Aston Martin Music,” which she appears humbled by. Simply, Chrisette Michele’s performance was a healthy break from over-processed music product. It’s rare that one gets to see such a large talent in its nascent stages; my only complaint is that my CDs now feel insufficient.