First on the ticket was St. Louis based Theresa Payne, whose soulful serenade stops you in your tracks and leaves you hanging on every word. Payne, an RFT pick for "Best R&B and Soul Artist," ended her impassioned set with a powerful execution of "Bye Fear," the first single from her newest album. Payne leaves her audience reveling in a peaceful empowerment, with her gospel driven tone beautifully paired with fervent lyrics that she feels to her core. Her conviction is as undeniable as the sweat that beads on her elegant face.
Hailing from Nashville, DeRobert and the Half-Truths took the stage next and kicked up the funk decibel. Lead singer DeRobert donned a black napkin to wipe his face, while holding nothing back on stage with his larger than life band. Easily winning the crowd's affection with his exuberance, DeRobert was smiling as he performed. He reminded me of a boisterous gospel choir conductor, constantly coaxing more from his willing band and from the crowd with his mighty, yet gorgeous voice. Seeing DeRobert and the Half-Truths takes you on a ride that you never want to stop, filling you to maximum capacity with raw soul and funk the entire way.
Ending the evening was Atlanta native Cody ChesnuTT, whose style is as complex as it is un-apologetic. Performing while wearing a skid lid helmet, ChesnuTT is a guerrilla poet of sorts. His 2002 debut, "Headphone Masterpiece," set him apart as a sophisticated and socially conscious artist that makes it difficult to assign a genre; a redefinition of contemporary soul music. His live show immediately captivated the crowd with his broad, dimpled smile and an in-your-face performance.
ChesnuTT is an off-his-rocker style artist, leaving you guessing, smiling and dancing the entire time. It is impossible to not become bewitched by his passion, his conviction and his love of live performance.
Photos by Joanna Kleine