Was it a sheer coincidence that Natural Brown Prom Queen Sudan Archives rolled into Chocolate City smack dab in the middle of the month of October? Hmmm we’d like to think so, but it couldn’t have been any more perfect timing since it’s technically college homecoming season and she packed out the Black Cat club for her “Homecoming” Tour on Friday, October 14.
Sometimes walking into a concert of an artist that you’re rather unfamiliar with can be like a mixed bag whereas you’ll either feel rather impressed by the time that you leave, or want to skip out halfway through their performance. My first time with seeing Sudan Archives live was certainly a positive experience, that actually has me wanting a little bit more. The concert kicked off with an opening act Byron, who would also double as her accompanying musician. His set was rather streamlined, with only having a bass/drum pad and vocal decoder, but it worked perfectly for the style of music that creates. The material that he performed was lifted from his debut album “PARASAiL-18,” which he describes as an escape in all its different forms: Hope, drugs, sex, desire, daydreaming, nightwalking, burial, fire, and fun. The trip-hop vibe of the songs, especially “For Profit” lead me into a trance like state where I was just bobbing my head and temporarily forgot that I was left standing with my feet hurting.
After a brief intermission, fog filled the stage and out immerged Sudan in a black sports bra and black cargo pants to the beat of her song “Home Maker.” That song was the perfect opening as she wanted to make us feel as home as possible. As the crowd erupted into an echoing cheer, she wasted no time digging into some of her new material from her latest album. The live renditions of “Copycat, “Ciara,” and “Loyal” had her fans in a chokehold since this was the first time that she had really performed it, but it was something about “Freakalizer” that had me all in.
Before the music really even kicked in for the song, she yelled “I‘m feelin’ freaky, where my freaks at?!” and unapologetically let loose, grinding and gyrating around as if she were home in her bedroom and no one was watching her, which all made sense. During the show, she mentioned that the concept for this album all came to her while she was sitting home during the pandemic and she realized that she wanted to make music that she could get up and dance to. Fast forward a year outside of the pandemic and her being on tour, all of her realizations were coming true.
As the show continued on, she brought out the one element that really sets her apart from any other artist, a violin. I’ve seen MANY concert tours over the years, and I can go on record to say that I’ve never witnessed anyone, particularly a woman of color, play weave the sounds of a classical violin into her music…but it worked. I was trying to find a way to categorize her sound, but she’s the type of musician where you can’t fit her into one box. At one point she skims on the line of alternative R&B, then in the next instance she switches it up to fiddle music.
Due to her recent performance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the one song that I was anticipating was “Selfish Soul,” which is essentially an ode to learning to accept herself for all the right reasons. One thing was for sure, and it’s that she wholeheartedly appreciates her fans…crowning one lucky lady the official “prom queen” for the night, before running off stage to dance amongst her legion of followers. Her sheer energy was mystifying to watch, it’s as if she’s taken bits and pieces from all the greats who came before her, molded them into a ball and formed it into something that’s all her own, which is something that I can appreciate.
After the concert I had a chance to speak to her and tell her that I thoroughly enjoyed her performance and was impressed by her stage presence and showmanship. It’s the small details like this that will carry budding artists well into their careers, and Sudan Archives is one of those young women who I can see enjoying mainstay success twenty plus years down the line.