Solange didn’t say much Thursday night at the Orpheum Theatre.
The 31-year-old soul singer didn’t need to. Instead, she expressed everything she wanted to in other ways — deliberate choreography, a simple yet dramatic set and a beautifully cohesive performance. It didn’t matter that most of the audience knew every word to each song she performed; the lyrics somehow felt more sacred because Solange had poured so much care into the show.
In late August, Solange, a Houston native, had announced a benefit show in Boston for the victims of Hurricane Harvey as part of her “Orion’s Rise” performance series, with jazz band Sun Ra Arkestra opening. Thursday night, she told the audience that half of the proceeds will be sent to Puerto Rico for the victims of Hurricane Maria.
The singer opened her 90-minute set with “Rise,” an understated anthem about healing. Wearing a red jumpsuit that matched the rest of her band, Solange masterfully controlled a stage bathed in orange light and decorated with Greek columns, a pyramid, and a huge red disc. She transitioned seamlessly into “Weary” and “Cranes in the Sky,” crowd-pleasing numbers that demonstrated her impressive range from her 2016 album “A Seat at the Table.”
If there’s one thing Solange understands about empowerment, it is that it’s impossible to achieve when attempted alone. Her band members doubled as dancers throughout the entire show, and they felt like crucial parts of her production.
In fact, Solange’s entire performance was a study on the power of space. During “Some Things Never Seem to [Expletive] Work,” she sang directly to a male fan in the front row, occasionally mere inches from his face. When the singer finally moved on, he looked a little stunned. (Who wouldn’t be?) Solange also joined the audience for black empowerment anthem “F.U.B.U.” Although fans surrounded her with smartphones in hand, they were mindful of the singer’s space. In a country that so often fails to give black bodies that same respect, the moment felt triumphant and significant.
At one point during the concert, Solange acknowledged how the fans had treated her during the show. “I was able to come out and watch Sun Ra Arkestra because you guys left me alone,” she said. “Thank you for that. It was a dream come true.”
Solange ended the evening with “Losing You,” a electro-pop song produced by fellow R&B artist Blood Orange, and “Don’t Touch My Hair,” a funk number about an experience many black women share. By then, the entire audience was on their feet, dancing along enthusiastically.
With the Sun Ra Arkestra
At the Orpheum Theatre Thursday nightBethany Ao can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @bethanyao.