Esperanza Spalding’s performance at El Rey Theatre on Tuesday (Nov. 20) was spellbinding, quite literally. The songstress and bass player put on a what seemed like a one-woman musical theater performance of her latest album 12 Little Spells. In a theatrically stunning red dress, Spalding took the audience on a journey through themes of disconnection; her songs touched on love and the intellectualization of it and our societal plague of being out of our bodies and into our phones, laptops and other devices --the sort of themes that keep us from seeing amazing live performances like hers.
Spalding showed off her legs during "All Limbs Are" from the album. Still wearing this regal red dress, Spalding laid on her back with her legs facing the screen behind her. An image of cityscape circled behind her. It appeared as if she was walking on it or making it turn or trying to keep up with its pace. A piece of art left for the audience's interpretation.
Though she has recently taken a break from playing the bass, a shock to many fans but an exploratory move for her, Spalding ended the night with an outfit change — an all-white one-piece jumpsuit with the words “Life Force” written on it. She decided to give the audience a little bit of bass despite her current respite from it. When she picked up the instrument the audience cheered.
Later in the show, Spalding put down her bass again and an audience member requested she play her next song with it.
“Will you play it with the bass?”
“No,” Spalding said with a matter-of-fact fun-loving tone. She quickly moved on to her next song as the crowd erupted with laughter at her quick dismissal of the thought. That was all of her playing the instrument fans were getting for the night.
The show allowed the audience to get true insight into the woman behind the bass. Her quick wit and intelligence were on display as beautifully as her versatile, mostly soprano vocals. Spalding is a talent worth seeing in-person as she continues her shows throughout North America and Europe.