Solange Holds Court at the House of Blues: Concert Review

Solange Knowles Performs - H 2013
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Solange Knowles Performs - H 2013

A week after that Super Bowl halftime show, the younger Knowles makes a fireworks-free case for knowing her name.

The indie R&B darling steps out during Grammy week -- with big sister Beyonce and brother-in-law Jay Z looking on -- to showcase her buzzy E.P.

Solange could not have a bigger challenge as a headliner.

Her real opening act -- no, not the perfectly capable singer-songwriter at her Thursday night House of Blues set -- is the big sister who's been a fixture in music for the better part of two decades. Beyonce, the reigning queen of pop, will always cast something of a shadow over the R&B darling.

And that's even when Beyonce is not literally casting a shadow on her sister, like she and husband Jay-Z did from a balcony while Solange readied her brief Grammy-week appearance in Los Angeles.

It's enough to make you almost feel a little sorry for the younger Knowles, standing backstage and hearing the adoring screams for her most famous fans. But then she comes out, and you instantly appreciate how hard-fought and long-coming her accelerating renown has been.

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Stepping out in a suit covered with puffy sets of lips, something that wouldn't look out of character on Mick Jagger, there is little showboating to Solange's show. She moves right into her new material, uninterested in addressing the crowd. As has been the custom on the brief tour, she opens with "Some Things Never Seem to F---ing Work" and "Don't Let Me Down" -- roughly a third of EP True.

Though she veers into some older material and a stray cover, it's the selections from the celebrated disc that define the show. And that might have a lot to do with the crowd's selective familiarity with her catalog. True, after all, seems like the full realization of a makeover Solange has been cultivating since the end of her rocky years at Columbia and Geffen, when she started showing up at Grizzly Bear shows, covering Dirty Projectors and collaborating with Of Montreal.

Her ownership over the new material and stray old tracks --  "T.O.N.Y." and "Crush" -- is evident throughout the brief, meticulously curated set. Something about her performance tells you that she could sing for over an hour and a half -- and that she could have just as easily released a full LP in December -- but she's content holding back.

And that's not to say there are any pretensions. Solange sways in time to the music with her bass player, forsaking what Beyonce-esque dancing skills she might have in favor of a charming "Hustle" any middle-aged dad might do at a wedding after a stiff drink.

Solange got the crowd close to a frenzy towards the end of the 45-minute set when she closed with single "Losing You" and a speedy encore of "Sandcastle Disco" -- but the warmest reception may have come during a left-field cover early in the show.

Following True favorite "Lovers in the Parking Lot," Solange segued into an almost fangirl cover of Selena's "I Could Fall in Love." It was the first and only sing-along of the night.

Set List:

Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work
Don't Let Me Down
Lovers in the Parking Lot
I Could Fall in Love (Selena cover)
Bad Girls
Locked in Closets
Look Good With Trouble
Losing You


Sandcastle Disco