She didn’t just let the words speak for themselves, she imbued them with grit and sorrow, in many ways demonstrating the showmanship she’s learned playing Celie on Broadway in the musical version of “The Color Purple.”
“I’m starting to feel good,” she told the standing room only crowd as sweat poured down her face in the humid Georgia air. “My lips are starting to quiver.”
The connection to the audience was deep. On “Bad Girl,” she wiped away the tears of an audience member, who came to the stage almost as if summoned in a tent revival. As they locked eyes, Fantasia poured out the song’s lyrics, “If my confident, independence go and get it intelligence scares ya, then I’ll be the bad girl.”
There were many light moments as well. A melody of covers — LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good,” Vanity 6′s “Nasty Girl” and The Time’s “The Bird” — showed the joyous side of Fantasia. She later capped that fun side with a booty-shaking jam of EU’s classic crowd-pleaser “Da Butt.”
In a surprise, she was joined on stage by gospel singer Le’Andria Johnson on “Lose to Win.” The duet gave Fantasia a chance to demonstrate her church choir roots and perform with a singer who also gained national fame after winning a televised singing contest. (Johnson was the Season 3 winner of BET’s “Sunday Best” gospel competition.)
She closed her roughly 70-minute set with “Baby Mama,” a callout to mothers that had women in the amphitheater waving their hands from left to right repeating “B-A-B-Y M-A-M-A” in unison.
“This is for every lady,” she screamed, bouncing. “To all the mothers in the building, come on, come on.”
Gill showed how well he holds the stage solo when not doing his side gig — performing with New Edition. He leaned in to his strong baritone and ran through a long list of hits that could easily have made him the headliner.
Credit: LEON STAFFORD?AJC
Credit: LEON STAFFORD?AJC
Reaching back to his early catalog with “Fairweather Friend” and “Wrap My Body Tight” during his opening, Gill worked hard to keep up with his background dancers and showcase the choreography that is a staple of New Edition. But after trying to sing and dance simultaneously in the outdoor amphitheater’s heat, he surrendered to Mother Nature.
“I’d love to see this whole place rocking, but if you think you’re going to pass out, stay in your seat,” he laughed.
That slowed him, but only a bit. He demonstrated his drumming skills, playing a fierce bongo before launching a cover of Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go.” Gill’s distinctive growl was well suited to match Beverly’s original, sending concertgoers to their feet despite the heat.
When he slowed things down, he delighted the crowd by bringing out fellow New Edition member Ronnie DeVoe — an Atlanta resident — to back him on the group’s collaboration, “This One’s for Me and You.” (DeVoe would later return to the stage to sing on New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain.”)
Gill even tried coaxing “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” alum NeNe Leakes, who came out to see the show, to sing with him on “If I Could Have Anything.” Leakes, laughing at the invitation, demurred.
Gill closed with his biggest solo hits, the slow burner “My, My, My” and the party track “Rub You the Right Way.” Gill implored the crowd to help him take the figurative roof off the building as he belted out the hit.
“Until the next time y’all,” he said as he left.