With the future of in-person concerts paused for the foreseeable future, musicians and fans alike are hoping that virtual concerts and performances can temporarily fill the void. One of the musicians looking to make the most of the circumstances is neo-soul legend Erykah Badu. Joined by her live band, Badu has streamed 3 performances from Dallas in increasingly elaborate settings, featuring jam sessions, experimental dj remixes, and commentary on everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to asteroids flying towards earth.
She referred to the first performance stream as an interactive experience called Apocalypse One, which she streamed live from her bedroom in front of a Yoko Ono poster. For $1, fans could stream the bedroom concert live, and vote on songs they wanted to hear in the setlist. The first concert was more of a casual jam session – a DIY-style event – and there seemed to be a feeling of relief among the artists to be playing music together again… and getting compensated for it.
For Apocalypse 2, Erykah Badu and company split time between her bedroom and the aptly titled ‘experiment room.’ The segments from the experiment room series come live from a dimly lit studio, with upgraded production quality, and a more experimental approach that included performances like an extended remix of ‘You Loving Me.’ Apocalypse 3 moved closer to what fans would expect from a true in-person spectacle: a dynamic light show, creative set design, and… hazmat suits?. In true quarantine fashion, Badu and crew delivered their interstellar-themed performance from their own respective giant bubbles. The third segment proved a psychedelic joy and virtual feat.
Earlier in the quarantine, Erykah Badu posted on social media, discussing how part of the inspiration behind the concerts’ structures was to provide her band with some income to make up for the lack of tour money. In a New York Times interview, she spoke directly about how important touring was for her own livelihood: “I’ve been touring for eight months out of the year for 22 years. This is the way that I had made my money.”
In the NYT interview, Badu describes how she wants to channel her own personal livestream efforts into something much greater. She envisions an entire production company devoted to bringing the magic of live music performances to the virtual realm – a project she says is already well underway. In her words: “my livestream company project is very much underway. It’s ambitious, but I think I can do it. I think I can help artists build a platform very similar to mine where everything lives there.” She says that one goal of the platform is to normalize paying artists directly, rather through endless intermediaries (as she modeled in her quarantine series). Stay tuned for Badu World.
Variety also interviewed Badu about her livestream company, and asked what we can expect from her future livestreams: “the ‘Quarantine Concert Series’ only has a few “Apocalypses,” then I’ll go on to the next series. But I never do the same thing in my live sets — I don’t even have a setlist. Improvisation is our way. I don’t know if I’ll do an “Apocalypse Four,” but I’ll move onto the next thing, and will it include music, drama, comedy? I do a lot of things, mister, and you ain’t really seen nothing yet!”
Very early on in the pandemic, we put together a shortlist of some of our favorite quarantine concert streams. Check it out here.
Clips from Apocalypse 2
For more, check out our soulwave playlist featuring plenty from Erykah Badu: