A trio of R&B underdogs packed the Pageant on Sunday night when Ledisi, Raheem DeVaughn and Leela James brought “The Intimate Truth Tour” to an audience of soul music lovers.
Headliner Ledisi hooked up with DeVaughn, the self-proclaimed King of R&B, and old-school-flavored James for a night of pure singing and musicianship.
The three acts, who all deserve more attention, shared the same band, and very little time passed between each performer.
Ledisi recently saw her profile rise, especially on social media, last month after the Grammys when Beyoncé performed gospel standard “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” instead of Ledisi, who sang it in the movie “Selma.”
Early in her show, after her “In the Morning,” Ledisi delivered “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” giving fans the rendition of the song many of them felt they were denied on the Grammys. She didn’t comment on it, simply letting her perfect version of the song speak for itself.
Ledisi, who also performed at the Pageant in May, gave an entirely different show on Sunday. Last year, she had fully choreographed routines and a number of costume changes, which she dropped this go-around.
Opening with “Lose Control” from her “The Truth” album from last year and her new acoustic EP follow-up “The Intimate Truth,” she explained the show was about relationships from beginning, middle and end.
The show’s best segment came when her singers and musicians surrounded her during an acoustic segment that included a scat-crazy “Rock With You,” “Like This,” “I Swear,” “Alright” and “Stay Together,” a duet with Jaheim during which she sang both parts with comedic dedication.
“Pieces of Me” afforded Ledisi the opportunity to really get out and see her fans. She walked through the entire venue, even wading through the balcony seating. “Don’t be looking at me mad down on the floor. I go where I want to go,” she said.
“I Blame You” and “Bravo” closed her show, with Ledisi taking off her shoes and running back and forth across the stage, her dreadlocks flailing, seemingly releasing an energy she’d been holding back.
She intimated audience may have been holding back a bit too. “I know a lot has happened since the last time I was here,” she said. “But you all are stronger and stronger and stronger every day.”
DeVaughn, playing up the King of R&B title, kicked off his set seated on a throne and wearing a shiny crown. “They say R&B and soul doesn’t matter. I’m here to tell you something different,” he said before adding black lives matter as well. “If you stand for freedom, justice and equality, get up.”
The crooner, who boasts a great falsetto, opened his set with his heavy message song “Bulletproof” before getting romantic and uplifting with “When You Love Somebody” from his album “Love Sex Passion,” as well as “Woman” and “Queen.” Ballads “Temperature Rising” and “Customer” were well-received.
James, who boasts the old soul of a singer like Betty Wright, delivered “I’m Loving You More Every Day” and “So Good” (with shades of Sade and Diana Ross weaved in) before taking it straight to the juke joint during a joyous bluesy segment. But she brought it back down for wrenching ballad “Fall for You.” “Set Me Free” wrapped up her set, but not before she tried on some vintage Staple Singers.