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TEENA MARIE: INDIGO O2 LONDON, JANUARY 30, 2010
“Ladies & Gentlemen, after a wait of 18 years … “ the DJ announces, at almost 9.05pm on the dot, “… now is the moment you’ve all been waiting for …” a sense of anticipation is tangible amongst the 2400 attendees with a charge of electricity surging through the sell out Indigo2 crowd, our MC continues “ITS … MS … TEENA … MARIE!!!” everyone in the crowd lets out an almighty roar, that is everyone except for one smart-arse stood behind who wisecracks “Wait a minute what’s my Mum Doris doing on the stage?” Cue a few sniggers from those in front. See 18 years is longer than you think, so we know what Doris’s bairn is getting at. It seems slightly strange at first glance to see this diminutive figure, bound across the stage, in a sparkly black Krystal Carrington style evening jacket with a red scarf around the neck and grab the microphone. Not quite the entrance of a funk superstar that we were expecting (or remembered), that is until she opens her mouth. Because make no mistake about it, Teena Marie's vocals are incredible.

She tears through the opening salvo of “Fire It Up/In My House” before removing her jacket and launching into the guitar toting, funky & devastating “I’m A Sucker For Your Love.” On the upper balcony, those who have paid for seats end up not having to use them. Everyone is dancing. But it’s on the ballads where Teena’s vocal ability really shines, she politely requests “can I take it back to the first one?” Yeah like she had to ask, and as the band begins the distinctive flute sound (played beautifully by Jeanett Harris) of “Déjà Vu” from her debut set Wild & Peaceful floats out of the amplifiers. Teena works the crowd with her voice, switching effortlessly to the upper register, but not fragile and delicate like Minnie or Mariah, her upper register has the power of an opera soprano. Working every nuance, pause and space in the music to hold her audience captivated, eventually inspiring a “say alright” sing-along. The crowd favourite “Portuguese Love” follows, with the leading intro guitar pluck (you know the one) … “Powwwww” packing more of a punch than it ever did on FM radio in 1988, showcasing the brilliant guitar work from David Stark. The pace picks up again into the UK hits “Behind The Groove” & “I Need Your Lovin’” with the rhythm section of drummer Chad Wright & liquid bass player David “The Great” Grigsby (that’s his new Indigo2 appointed nickname) supplying the bottom that’s forcing us all into involuntary grooving. The dedication to Smokey Robinson before she began “Ooo La La La”, a song written by Teena (and sampled by the Fugees on “Fu-Gee-La”), connected one or two dots that admittedly I hadn’t noticed before, that is the similarity in her singing style to that of the former Miracle. Shrill when it needed to be, with lashings of tremolo developing into a falsetto style cry.

The real delight was an unexpected tribute to Rick James (Teena said “this is for RJ”) and both “You & I” & “Give It To Me Baby” couldn’t have sounded better even if the Stone City Band had been playing.

As the familiar introduction to “Fire & Desire” began “Oooh hoooo oooh oooo ahhh” it instigated a lung busting, sweat inducing rush from the top balcony, down 3 flights of stairs, through a crowd of at least 100 strong to the edge of the stage. But the effort, unfortunately, was in vain. Teena decided against choosing a slightly out of breath, red cheeked weirdo at the front, opting instead for a hunky security guard to summon from the side of the stage to sing to (I have my suspicions that she rather lazily went for one of the Indigo2 staff members), her nephew Michael Wilson (is that blood nephew or Snoop Dogg style nephew?) stepped from the backing vocalists’ area to join her on the duet, also picking a lady from the crowd to sing his part to. He does Rick proud with an outstanding rendition of his verse, but when Teena sings THAT bit, “LOOOOHHHOOOOVVVEEEE them and leave them!” she draws goosebumps. Rounding off with the classic ”Square Biz” Teena is implored to perform 5 encores including “Climb The Walls” a personal favourite from her independent album “Passion Play,” a new track from “Congo Square” called “Milk N Honey” where she was joined on stage by her talented brood - rapper Jovan Brown & singer Rose LeBeau, future funk Maries in the making. Last thing to mention, one of the encores is an incredible cover version of Smokey & RJ’s “Ebony Eyes” performed with each of her fantastic backing singers Traci Nelson & Dee Dee O’Neal, all combining for a moment of stunning 4 part harmony.

As the show comes to end and the players take their bow, the audience chants “TEENA! TEENA! TEENA!”

She steps to the microphone for the last time “Thank you … can I come back?”

“YES!” we all reply.

“I’ll be returning in June this year … will you be here?”

“YES!”

An incredible night, Teena Marie came, she conquered and she kicked some arse.

  
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