Since the tender age of 4 years old I have always dreamed of being able to see one of my top three favorite songstress of all time, vocal phenomenon Anita Baker. I didn’t know that a chance would even be provided after she announced her retirement and Farewell Concert Series back on New Year’s Day in 2018. However, by December 31st, 2018 she decided to journey on to continue her firm reign in this industry and declared that she was back. Had she not made this decision, people like myself would not have been able to fulfill a life’s dream of seeing her perform live, for the first time ever. Needless to say, getting this in person transaction of flawless melodic phrasing, moving rhythmic patterns that are smoothly and uniquely executed by Ms. Anita Baker, simply incredible all by itself. Black Friday will now have a significant place in my heart because of this priceless musically talented, legendary, phenomenal woman, gifting us with her pure talent.
This show took place, the day after Thanksgiving 2019 at the MGM National Harbor Theater located in Oxon Hill, MD. It was another sold out Concert for Ms. Baker with much anticipation. Seats filled up quickly as a digital sign on each screen stated that no Photography or Videography would be tolerated and if found using it, you would be removed from the theater. As I’m reading the sign, I totally get why it was important to keep this event as exclusive as possible. However, Concert Daily was there as media with the clearance to review the show. We were so excited to be there, but the excitement was momentarily disrupted as Will of Concert Daily was kicked out of the venue because it was assumed that he was not following rules. This situation came just as the intro song: “Lady Marmalade”, had the audience jammin. Such an unexpected thrill from both ends. It was enchanting to get a chance to hear Anita Baker sing a cover song. A rare experience all around.
There was a rush of adrenaline that took over the entire audience as her incredible band was musically setting up her second song of the night: “Memories “. During this time, they (Security) thankfully let Will of Concert Daily back in. Everyone was ready to be blown away and we were but not the way we initially expected. The 1st verse came but there was no sound of Ms. Baker’s voice. All of the backing vocalists’ mics were on, along with the band’s mics. They were sounding awesome. However, the ripple effect of people noticing the lack of sound coming from Ms. Baker grew intensely. Before we knew it the whole song happened and the band was transitioning into: “Sweet Love”.
Now listen, there were diehard fans of Ms. Anita Baker in there like myself and there was NO WAY we were about to let THIS song happen without being able to clearly hear her soothing tone spread through the theater and touch our souls. So, almost in sync, we all started yelling: “Nooooo!”, “Wait”, “We Can’t Hear You”, “You Can’t Do This Song Without Us Being Able To Hear you”, etc. It got very real in that theater. There were no “F’s Given” as we all had to let Ms. Baker know that we so desperately wanted and needed to hear her. A guy even jumped on the stage to inform the pianist that we could not hear her. Several people got out of their seats and walked to the edge of the stage and others like myself were gesturing with large hand movements. All in efforts to let her know she could not be heard! We were an adamant bunch who was not having it, OKRRRRR!
By the time she recognized this, the song was over. She herself couldn’t believe that, that entire time passed by with no sound coming from the lead mic. It took a minute to get the mic to stay on and stop popping in and out. Once it finally was on, Ms. Baker expressed her sincere gratitude for us all and said someone wouldn’t be receiving their check joking/seriously. She told us there was a cord mix-up and to not blame the sound engineer as things sometimes just happen. To thank us, she decided to start her concert over from the beginning. Baby! This changed the disappointment into excitement and cheers filled the theater!
Going through her set list, she was blazing vocally. Though at points she had to continuously request that “Reverb” be added to her mic more than 5 times before it was. She also had to give directions as it pertained to the compression levels in the floor monitors being adjusted. Now hold on a minute, this made me ponder a bit. I was curious in researching some of her previous shows to see how her sound was and this very unfortunate circumstance had definitely happened before. The venue’s sound engineers are great at what they do BUT seem to have a challenging time accurately assessing the depth and reach within the tone quality, resonance and strength of Ms. Baker’s vocal ability. In my opinion you cannot preset a console for her voice. You cannot treat this legendary soulful singer like a pop singer using tracks with a live band. This is not that type of situation. Anita Baker’s vocals, live band, live backing vocals all deserve and require sound engineers to put their best foot forward, be intricate and constantly able to adjust, balance and secure the sound quality of the show so all parties can be confident and focused on the execution of the rehearsed setlist and not on the stress of bad sound and the diminishing affect it has over the level of excellence a concert can give. Ms. Baker needs her own sound team who will utilize the skill set taught and practiced exceedingly that would even get them to the point of having such a grand opportunity to do sound for a legend! But I digress!
Because of the true professional she is, there was no stopping this Diva. She continued on through her incredible hit song catalog and had everyone singing along as she performed endless hits such as: “Been So Long”, “Caught Up In The Rapture”, and “No One In The World”.
Anita Baker let it be known that all it takes is one genuine boost to get you motivated and inspired to fuel the desire to keep going and fulfill your dreams. She didn’t realize how timeless she was. She took a poll of the audience this night and quickly realized she was performing to 3 generations of Anita Baker fans! You could tell she was so touched that her music can single handedly bring the youth and the young and seasoned adults together.
There were many times throughout this concert that Anita Baker would allow the audience to sing the song and then double back and re-sing it back to us so we could have our moment to share how much we really know and adore her music and lyrical content. That exchange was priceless, very organic and much appreciated.
Then the moment came when this special guest was being announced. Ms Baker said some wonderful things about this mystery artist and let us know that we must show love to those who will carry on the torch. Of course, the audience was getting antsy because our excitement had us wondering who it could be. Then, in the blink of an eye, the one and only Lalah Hathaway appeared. I lost it and the audience was stunned. I could not believe this truly talent DIVA was now standing before me at an Anita Baker concert! A double blessing. These two are 2 of my top 5 all-time favorite female artists of all time. I was shooketh and had to get myself together. The excitement running through my body had my adrenaline bursting through the roof. Next thing I know Lalah Hathaway starts sangin and she started sannnggging one of my favorite songs that I absolutely love to hear her perform which is: “Forever, For Always, For Love”. She slayed that but wasn’t finished with us because she then hit us with a very soulful jazzy cover of “Summertime” and baby, it was EVERYTHING!!!!
After this rush of pure vocal ability and agility, Ms. Baker returned and closed out this Concert with a series of more loved songs which included other favorites: “Giving You The Best That I Got” and “Same Ole Love (365 Days A Year)”. By the time she was ending her entire set she was saying goodbye, but we wanted more. To the right of me a chant broke out of audience members shouting: “Anita, Anita, Anita”. An encore shortly followed where Ms. Baker blessed us with: “Angel”.
This concert was special in many ways and I would encourage you all to go find the nearest location that she will be performing in. The visuals of nature she uses as her concept alone will have you feeling like you are flying high while being mesmerized by all the brilliance embedded in Anita Baker’s concert. Her years of expertise shows and the musically talented support of her band and backing vocalists makes for a stellar experience everyone should treat themselves too. There are many concerts to attend but if you have not been to an Anita Baker show, the time to do so is now because this DIVA is still on fire keeping us caught up in her rapture of talent, class, ambition and legacy.
Story By: @MarquitaCheron
About The Author: Marquita Cheron is a Jazzy-Soul/R&B Singer/Songwriter, Correspondent, Writer and overall Music Enthusiast; who has a love for every positive angle of the Music & Entertainment industry. Simply on a quest to reveal the greatness of amazing artists and their music to the masses, while also being a contributor of it herself.