Leela James wants you to feel something. If you ever see the VH1 Soul You Oughta Know artist perform live, she’ll ask you to your face. “Can ya’ll feel that right there?” she shouted to the crowd in the midst of her performance at New York City’s B.B. King’s earlier this month. They responded with an Earth-shaking affirmative. Any advertisement for a Leela James show should come with a warning, Ms. James turns it up and takes you there, so we hope you can stand the fierceness and the fire!
It’s been an unforgettable two weeks for the soulstress. Her fourth studio album, Fall For You, garnered the No. 2 spot on iTunes following its debut July 8, and last week James made her reality TV show debut on the new season of R&B Divas: LA. All of this good news called for a celebration, and that’s exactly what it felt like during her performance at B.B. King’s.
Whether she’s gyrating with wreckless abandon, or busting out a hard dozen pushups on the stage, her set is both a celebration of life and the joy she feels living out her dreams and making good music. The covers-heavy set featured stunning renditions of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s hit “Joy & Pain,” Teena Marie’s “Square Biz”, Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” and Sade’s “Ordinary Love.” The familiar numbers kept folks in the moment and on their toes, but so did James’ tease, “You ain’t too cute to party! Tomorrow is not promised so you might as well go on and party tonight!”
Two highlights of the evening were the electric performance of “Give It”, a favorite single off the new album, and a cover of The Staple Singers’ ” Let’s Do It Again,” something we plan to do when the time comes to see Leela James perform in New York again. Her shows are empowering, energizing and comforting. James is keenly aware that in life, we all go through some trials and troubles— but she’s willing and able to lay her struggles down on a track in a way that uplifts and empathizes and makes us want to dance.
[Photo: Malcolm Beckford]