Brace yourselves, Twin Cities, because another conquering diva is about to storm our beaches. PaviElle French is poised to own 2015 like Lizzo did a few years back, and it’s time to welcome our brassy new boss. French has been honing her show with a monthly residency series at Icehouse for the last year, blowing away folks who just walked in for a cocktail with a whiplash-inducing voice. Expect her to make the jump from Wednesday night to the weekend if she keeps performing like this.
French’s band is made up of longtime collaborators and a few familiar faces from the Secret Stash Records family, including Sonny Knight’s horn section. They churn out a groovy mixture of neo-soul and dumpstaphunk with the occasional trace of virtuosic jazz. Percussionist Ahanti Young and backing vocalist/hype man Tai-yo provided a great charisma boost for the already-charming French, whose theater background brings a welcome flair for the dramatic and a vivacious and inviting confidence. The drum-tight musicianship shone as well, with all the seamless transitions and snappy synchronized hits that seem to be the calling card of Secret Stash-related groups, plus a few eye-popping conga solos from Young.
Nearly every song was vamped into a call-and-response pattern with the crowd, while Tai-yo and French commanded the stage with the presence of a trained MC, rather than just R&B singers. By the time she wrapped up the show with an uplifting musical tribute to her dearly departed parents, French had us in the palm of her hand. It’s extremely gratifying to see any rising artist command this level of respect, but the turn takes on additional importance when one considers the context.
French is making her stand in a decidedly afrocentric, contemporary idiom. Compared to Sonny Knight’s eminently lovable and deeply cultural material, the music created by French and her band is sexier, deeper, and far more outspoken. Get on the bandwagon now while there’s still seats left.