It’s not often that Black music is seen and heard at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul. But three Black women recently broke through and provided “a soulful and amazing night.”
On Friday, June 3, PaviElle, Jayanthi Kyle and Sarah White graced the Fitzgerald stage and played to a diverse crowd. Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) 89.3 The Current presented the locally-based ladies of color — each artist regally walked on sans announcer and performed 30-45 minutes apiece.
“It felt good,” marveled Mysnikol Miller of Minneapolis. She told the MSR afterwards that she first heard PaviElle around 10 years ago at a local “open mic” night. “To see her come all this way in 10-plus years…to see her now doing her thing is so beautiful,” she said of PaviElle.
White performed first. She was fresh off a bunch of gigs around town, including First Avenue. She has collaborated with the likes of Macy Gray and Yasin Bey, and recently recorded in Havana, Cuba. Her second album, Laughing at Ghosts was released in March — “Ghosts” was among the seven songs she performed with her backup trio.
“I feel real grateful that MPR and The Current allowed us this space where we can play together, do what we want,” said White backstage after the show.
Influenced by Afro-punk mixed with hip hop, electronic dance, R&B and neo-soul, White’s set didn’t quite jive with the theater’s classic acoustics. Her voice was a tad too loud, seemingly a better fit for more intimate settings. But “August,” which featured Tasha Baron’s expertly keyboards riff, was a standout and perhaps White’s best offering.
Kyle on the other hand, took us to church, first with a trio of fellow Black females — Sarah Greer, Libby Turner and Mankwe NDosi — and sang several songs a cappella that were inspired by old spirituals. The group was clearly in sync.
“They remind me that I am capable of more things than I know,” admitted Kyle as she paid homage to the ladies, who left with her as the artist did a quick change of attire. She returned on stage accompanied with David Crittenden on acoustic guitar.
Kyle, who gained notoriety last year when Black Lives Matter adopted one of her songs as a protest anthem, successfully covered Prince’s “Nothing Compared to U.” When asked her preference of performing solo or as a group member — Kyle is part of eight groups, she replied “It doesn’t matter to me. A lot of times I feel like I will need more of a band for some events. [But] I love doing solo [gigs], too.”
Last was PaviElle, who committed grand larceny as she stole the show when she proceeded on stage in headliner fashion. The native St. Paulite and proud daughter of Rondo, introduced herself to those of us who are novices to her work with a self-titled rap, then came on strong with a Fleetwood Mac cover (“Dreams”). She then channeled Jill Scott’s “The Way.” With eyes closed, you might have thought Scott made a surprise guest appearance that night at the Fitzgerald.
“That’s my girl,” noted PaviElle on Scott backstage afterward the show. “Jill, Erykah [Badu] and Chaka Khan, I learned a lot from them.”
All throughout her set, PaviElle, who is also a songwriter, consistently kept the audience up on their feet — some even danced in the aisle. She completed her house-bringing down set with a heart-wrenching tribute to the late Purple One with “I Would Die For U” that drew a minutes-long standing ovation like in the movie Purple Rain.
“I was one of the singers who went down and sang at First Avenue when he died,” said the singer. “That’s my favorite song by him. I think it means so much more than just him singing to a girl. I thought it was such a spiritual song.”
All three sisters afterwards told the MSR how appreciative they were of being on the historic stage doing their respective thing. “I think so often we get the one token artist [of color],” stated White.
Added Kyle, “I thought this was a beautiful time to sing from our heritage and our people.”
“It was a blessing getting this show,” said PaviElle.
“We don’t have enough Black spaces in Minnesota to have all these beautiful women with so much soul and energy,” reflected Miller, who left the three-woman concert completely satisfied. “It makes you feel good.”
PaviElle concluded by saying that she thought the show will give her career a welcomed boost. “People keep a look out. We’re here. I’m ready.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
For more information on PaviElle visit her website at http://paviellemusic.com.
For more information on Sarah White visit www.facebook.com/Sarahwhiteofficialmusic.
For more information on Jayanthi Kyle visit https://jayanthikyle.bandcamp.com/releases.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.