VanJess and Masego Delight Crowds at The Met

Back in late-October, R&B singer Masego stopped by Pawtucket’s The Met to bless us with a performance of cuts from his 2018 album Lady Lady along with a few songs from earlier in his career. The Met served as 4th stop on his Lady Lady tour and as if Masego and his multi-talented self was not enough to satisfy your R&B tummy, he also recruited with another great R&B act to serve as his opener. VanJess, a female R&B duo hailing from southern California, served as the opening act for the Lady Lady tour. Just like Masego, VanJess is also coming off a strong 2018 album as they released their debut album, Silk Canvas, back in July (check out my review of it here).

Because The Met being a small venue, fitting around 200-300 people, Masego and VanJess could connect with fans and create an intimate performance that included interacting with the audience.

VanJess approached the stage in a very graceful and elegant way as “Control Me” kicked off their set. At the end of the track, the duo introduced themselves and wasted no time connecting with the crowd, questioning them about whether Pawtucket is truly referred to as “The Bucket.” A mix of cheers and boos were returned and after a quick laugh, VanJess moved on to the next track. They kept the mid-tempo energy going for a bit, performing “Addicted” and “Cool Off the Rain (Interlude)” next. Looking to turn things up a bit, VanJess moved to one of my favorite tracks from Silk Canvas, “Through Enough” with GoldLink. Showing off a few dance moves, the duo had a few people in the crowd dancing along as well.

Reaching the halfway point of their set, VanJess kept the energy going with “‘Til the Morning,” which is my personal favorite, so my R&B tummy at least was fully satisfied at that point, but they still weren’t finished. Next, the duo came through with “Honeywheat,” which they revealed was inspired by none other than honey wheat pancakes. Next, VanJess performed “Another Lover,” and bringing the set to close, they performed “Touch the Floor.” The song made it impossible to stand still, and everyone and their mother was two-stepping their lives away. The song also features Masego who lent luscious saxophone notes to the song’s background. It also served as the perfect way to end their set, as Masego would be next to hit the stage after the track.

After about 15 minutes, led by his live bad consisting of a drummer, pianist, bassist and two backup singers, Masego elegantly walked onto the stage, sax in hand, playing along to “Tadow,” the lead single off Lady Lady. Stopping to introduce himself to the crowd, you could tell we were in for a special night as he sprinkled a bit of his charm and charisma into the audience.

For the next half hour or so of the show, Masego performed a combination of old and new music as well as his features with other artists, which included “Ooh Nah Nah” (SiR), “Love Be Like” (JR Jarris) and “Late Night” (GoldLink). While he absolutely killed these performances, continuing to trap the audience with his overbearing smoothness, there was one thing he did that solidified his set as one of my favorites ever. Taking to his beat pad, Masego slowly began to compose a new beat for us, made mostly through beatboxing. We all watched the beat come to life as he added his own variations of high hats, drums and 808s. Right before our very eyes, a fantastic beat had been composed and Masego was singing right over it, even blessing our ears with his soothing and slightly hypnotizing saxophone.

While Masego creating a beat live was definitely a highlight moment of the night, it was the backend of his set that will stick with me forever, mainly because he performed damn near every single one of my favorite songs. “Old Age,” “Girls That Dance,” “Prone,” “Send Yo ‘Rita” and that’s only some of it. If hearing those songs live wasn’t enough, him obliterating the performance of each song was even better.

Leaving the stage after “Girls That Dance,” Masego thanked us all for coming out and returned to the depths of backstage, but if we thought we were willing to just let him leave that easily, he played himself. Within seconds, an encore broke out and for what felt like forever, we chanted hoping that he we would return to the stage, and finally he did. Taking their respective positions, the band got back into performance mode and let off a satisfying performance of “Navajo,” leaving for real this time at the end of the set.

This night at The Met was a true display of an unorthodox form of R&B, with both acts reshaping the box that is R&B. VanJess showed elements of funk in their music, while Masego’s music is laced with an element of jazz. These unique elements allowed these artists to give off an amazing performance. Masego gave one of the best live sets I’ve ever seen before. Doing a live set rather than using background tracks, his set was very raw and authentic, but also, his on-stage energy and charisma served as an added element of entertainment. His crowd interactions helped keep the show fun and light-hearted, even throwing a slight jab at someone in the crowd with an Android.

Masego’s ability to keep up his energy all show, but do it in a very smooth and silky way is just added proof as to why he’s an amazing performer. You can also find these same elements from VanJess’ set. It was clear they were having the time of their lives stage and they danced and joked their way through their set. The chemistry between the two was also too high to go unnoticed. Lastly, not only do they sound amazing live, they also performed “‘Til Morning” and let GoldLink’s verse on “Through Enough” play in full and that was the icing on the cake.

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