By Cameron Lee
March 15, 2022
There are few concerts in a calendar year that can make a larger venue feel extremely intimate. On a brisk Sunday night in the Queen City, the incomparable Jazmine Sullivan packed The Fillmore and did just that. Tickets for the show in Charlotte (and most on the tour) sold out almost immediately, and there’s no question Sullivan has a very personal relationship with her fans, many of whom have grown up with the singer.
Sullivan first signed a record deal with Jive at the age of 15, then worked with Missy Elliot on her debut album, Forever, in 2008. The debut earned Sullivan seven Grammy nominations and propelled her career. Sullivan’s 2021 EP, Heaux Tales, released at the peak of the pandemic, has been lauded as one of the best albums of 2021 by many critics, and was nominated for Best R&B Album at this year’s 64th Annual Grammy Awards. The concept project features only eight songs but is permeated with deeply personal testimonies from Black women on topics of sexuality and women’s empowerment. It also includes some monster collabs featuring H.E.R. (“Girl Like Me”), Ari Lennox (“On It”) and Anderson .Paak (“Price Tags”).
It was announced in January that the talented British singer-songwriter Tiana Major9 would be opening for Sullivan exclusively on the Heaux Tales tour. Best known for her colossal song “Collide,” featuring EarthGang, from the 2019 film Queen & Slim, Major9 released her 2020 project, At Sixes And Sevens, through Motown Records. She has gone on to work with the likes of Smino (“2 seater”), Lucky Daye (“On Read”), Vince Staples (“Real Affair – Remix”), and Stormzy (“Rainfall”), further solidifying her as a rising star in R&B.
While the chatty crowd occasionally seemed aloof during her set, there is no denying Tiana Major9’s extraordinary talent as a singer and songwriter. Backed with just a guitarist and synth player, Major9 didn’t miss too many notes. She played some of her bigger songs, including “2 seater” and an emotional rendition of “Same Space?” before jumping into three covers paying tribute to fellow British woman artists. She performed Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life,” Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” and Estelle’s “American Boy,” then asked for a wave of cell phone lights for the finale, “Collide.” Major9’s set seemed brief and, despite the noise, her vocal ability was on full display, cutting clearly through the chatter. There is little doubt the 26-year-old Motown artist could be headlining sold-out tours of her own very soon.
The Fillmore was overflowing with anticipation for Jazmine Sullivan. Chants for her preceded the band and backup singers, who walked on stage with a bright interchanging digital screen and vertical stage lights flashing. Then, the band started playing “Bodies – Intro” and Sullivan greeted the audience. “How y’all feeling tonight? You sound amazing y’all. Help me sing this.” The crowd joined in: “Gotta stop getting fucked up / What did I have in my cup? / I don’t know where I woke up / I keep on pressing my luck.” Sullivan wasted no time showcasing her vocal range and aptitude, and she was rewarded with resounding applause and screams from the mostly female crowd.
Sullivan jumped right into “Bust Your Windows,” the waltzy 2008 song from Forever about seeking revenge on a cheating boyfriend. “Where all my crazy hoes at? We gotta let them know they can’t play with us,” she exclaimed.
The most hip-hop influenced tracks on Heaux Tales, “Put It Down” and “Price Tags,” were performed with formidable live instrumentation and a harmonizing trio of backup singers, which gave the songs life. On the stripped-down “Girl Like Me” (featuring H.E.R. on the album version), the crowd completely took over the singing, which drew an emotional reaction from Sullivan, as she paused to wipe some real tears from her face. Reaching from her 2010 sophomore album, Love Me Back, Sullivan went into “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles),” before another sing-a-long for the deeply sensual Ari Lennox collaboration, “On It,” and a slowed-down “BPW” from the Heaux Tale Mo’ Tales: The Deluxe album.
From the jump, Sullivan commanded the stage and the crowd for nearly ninety minutes with her cherished catalog and deeply loyal fan base. Bouncing back-and-forth from new anthems to classic radio hits, she performed a more soulful version of the usually reggae-tinged track, “Need You Bad,” before she exited the stage with the entire band. After brief but emphatic moments of “Jazmine!” chants and screeching, Sullivan returned to the stage for her spirited encore, ”Pick Up Your Feelings.”
After catching Covid-19 on tour in late February and canceling a few shows, there were serious concerns whether Sullivan would make the stop in North Carolina. Though it probably wouldn’t have mattered if Sullivan was under the weather– her devoted fans would have sang through the entire show to aid the celebrated singer-songwriter. It’s that love and devotion that brought a sense of intimacy to Sunday night’s show. The Fillmore never felt smaller.
Check out the remaining dates for the Jazmine Sullivan Heaux Tales tour with Tiana Major9.
View this post on Instagram