Sincerity feels ever fleeting in this digital age — having the ability to the traverse complicated emotions, particularly those surrounding love, through the scope of our physical and digital lives is a daunting task. One, that few are able to navigate successfully. Stopping by the Ogden Theatre on Tuesday night, hip-hop/r&b crooner 6lack (pronounced black) offered an articulate and poignant statement on sincerity with his heartfelt performance. While not perfect, it broached the subject of love amongst other things with tangible capacity.
Sabrina Claudio, a burgeoning r&b songstress in her own right preceded 6lack to much fanfare. Sauntering onstage with a plunging blouse, tight jeans and high heels, Claudio was a vision of glamour. However, for as much as she fit the portrait of a sultry r&b singer, the actual singing portion was treated as an afterthought. For what it’s worth, Claudio has a wonderful catalog of songs to her name, but either due to inexperience or lack of confidence in her voice, she struggled to do them justice live. Her song “Confidently Lost,” became a mess of out of tune melismas fluttering into the stratosphere, stranding many in the audience on earth. Elsewhere, some songs like “Unravel Me,” felt like guessing games, searching for the right note to end a phrase on, more often than not finding a rough landing in its place. It was a shame though because her backing band was absolutely crushing it.
Not all was a loss, though — Claudio noticeably felt a comfort in her gorgeous lower register – a note that the audience quickly picked up on. A shining example was on “Runnin’ Thru Lovers,” which offered strong promise in her ability when she was able to take control of it. Also, on her ultimate song “Belong to Me,” Claudio sounded positively dreamlike, ending the set on a high note. In essence, when she was on her game she portrayed the makings of an r&b star, but when she was off, there was little else that separated her from another faceless girl singing along in the audience. However, with some more time and experience under her belt, perhaps one day Claudio can contend with the best of them.
After Claudio, and following video montage of his ascent, 6lack took the stage spitting the furious “Never Know,” to clamoring fans. Without his signature dreads, 6lack looked rather unassuming upon the stage, but he was as articulate as ever firing off the lyrics in his songs, which the crowd spat back just as sharply. It didn’t take long before he addressed the energy of the crowd. After chanting “free 6lack” in the middle of his set, 6lack paused the set telling us he’d never had that happen before, and how much he appreciated it. Rather than listlessly transitioning from song to song, the same receptiveness continued, with 6lack providing insight into his mindset at the time of a song’s writing and the pitfalls of love that took him there. Few songs received commentary, but the ones that did felt like sincere diary entries.
6lack’s underlying motif throughout the show was love. Whether it the love of self, the hustle or somebody else, it was omnipresent throughout the show. From the most honest confessional “Loving U” to the fiery and dismissive “PRBLMS,” 6lack conveyed a crushing honesty about love as he performed. Not every song was sung as it is on record, but the passion with which he delivered his lyrics more than made up for it. Buoyed by live drums and keys, the lyrics, and the music hit that much harder. While navigating love may have proven to be the hardest task for 6lack, communicating his attempts felt effortless as everyone in the audience anecdotally related. It was ironic that many in the audience chose to record such an earnest portrayal, but perhaps in playback, we can find some truth that we can apply to ourselves.