Voice of Andra Day Gives Soul to St. Andrew’s

By MONICA SABELLA, Web Editor

Hundreds of eager fans lined up outside Congress Avenue’s one and only St. Andrew’s Hall to hear the soulful sounds of 2016 Grammy performer Andra Day on March 12.

Entering the venue, rumbles from a metal concert downstairs vibrated the floor boards, emanating violent guitar chords and drum combinations from below. This and a slight mishap with the microphones delayed the concert a little, but it only gave concert goers extra time to visit the bar once or twice more before the show began.

The metallic strains slowed and quieted down in time for the opening performer, a Detroit native named Trey Simon. He sang ballads about relationships, good and bad, about his struggles with racial conflicts, growing up in a family with mixed racial backgrounds, and finally a song he dedicated to his lovely sister who had accompanied him to the show.

“I used to play downstairs in the basement and think, ‘Someday I’m going to play upstairs and that’s today,” Simon said. “I just had to bring my little sister.’”

Simon’s debut was well-received by the crowd, and being a Detroit native helped create a connection and fuel the energy. By the end of it, however, the crowd was ready for Day and could hardly suppress their excitement.

The band assembled onstage — one by one almost to tease the audience. First the guitarist, then the drummer, the bass guitarist followed by the keyboardists. They had the crowd chanting her name until finally she appeared wrapped in fur, high heeled boots, and a set of pajamas straight out of an “I Love Lucy” episode. Her 50s’ attire successfully translated the vintage feel her bluesy R&B inspires, echoing iconic jazz legends like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday with the more modern lyrics of personalities like Amy Winehouse and Emeli Sandé.

My favorite part of any concert is when the artist begins to make conversation with their audience, telling them a little about their past, their thoughts behind each song, the real meaning for them — anything that will provide a small glimpse of the real person behind their Hollywood-ized persona. Day didn’t disappoint.

It might be her Detroit family roots, but there was something real in the way she spoke to the crowd. After performing at the Grammy’s and rising quickly to stardom over the last year, working with Stevie Wonder and covered by the prestigious Rolling Stone magazine, most would find it difficult not let it go to their head. However, throughout the concert, Day maintained a humble and gratified attitude.

Between numbers, she told stories about growing up, her relationships, lessons she’s learned and about being honest with others and with herself. About halfway through the performance, Day started by describing her past insecurities with image, and struggles with depression and anxiety. While she spoke, Day began wiping away the bright red lipstick and heavy eyeliner showing the crowd that it’s important to accept yourself for who you are. She kicked off her high heeled boots and sat in front of the audience, singing her heart away, gently tapping out the beat in her white socks as she sat on stage, the red and blue lights glowing from behind. It was refreshing to see such honesty from someone who has risen so high so quickly.

Day closed with her song “Rise Up” which debuted on her recently released album, Cheers to the Fall. Before beginning, she spoke out to the audience, encouraging them to sing with her and rise up above their troubles.

“Now it’s your turn to rise up,” Day said from the stage. “We’re not the only one’s struggling here; there are people outside [St. Andrews Hall] and in the city. My hope is that our voices will be so loud, they will rise up so people outside can hear it.”

The crowd swayed to the rhythm of the music and began to chant as one, until the room shook with the pure strength of their voices. There’s no doubt that if there were any bystanders outside, they could not possibly have missed Day’s final number.

It was a beautiful way to end a concert and, according to Day, is what music is all about — inspiring others, telling stories and learning from each other.

“That’s the power of music,” she said. Day’s album, or autobiography as she calls it, is available on iTunes now.