It’s not right, but Solange Knowles is almost always discussed in the context of her famous older sister, Beyoncé. The truth is, Solange, who also performs under her first name, is the anti-Beyoncé. Whether by design or happenstance, that was a smart decision. There’s little overlap in their artistic arcs.
Where her sister is regal and larger than life, Solange presents herself as down to earth, one of us. Instead of chasing Top 40 hits, she has cut her own path collaborating with indie-rock bands such as Dirty Projectors and recently released “True,” an EP of sly, streamlined R&B molded by producer Dev Hynes.
But when Solange came to the Paradise Rock Club on Tuesday, she got a warm welcome worthy of a superstar. The show was sold out, and she seemed genuinely humbled by the reception during a set that was far too abbreviated for an artist with two full-length albums and a new EP.
Even with a six-piece band behind her, including two backup singers, the show was often muted, this close to really catching fire. As a young woman in the crowd put it, “It’s like I’m listening to a great record that someone’s playing downstairs.”
That could have been Solange’s intention. She imparted the illusion of being a free spirit, a soul sister down for whatever you have in mind, but her act is all about containment. She knows the value of moderation — in her voice, her stage banter, her backing band, her short set list.
She does not have a big voice but makes good use of it, easing her way in and out of a lyric. A sweet cover of Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love,” all soft focus and sultry, sounded right at home alongside new songs such as “Locked in Closets” and “Lovers in the Parking Lot.”
Sometimes her understatement gave the impression that she wasn’t invested in the performance. Just as Solange started to cut loose, around the time that the audience ignited a singalong of “Losing You,” she suddenly wrapped up after 50 minutes. It was like a house party shut down when the cops arrived.