Ari Lennox ties a bow on a perfect week of soul in Philly - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

This past week has been a solid week of soul music for Philadelphia. On March 10th, Philly’s own Musiq Soulchild released a new album with producer Hit Boy called Victim & Villains. This past Wednesday Arthur Thomas and The Funkitorium’s singer Re-mus performed music off his new album U.S.E. at comedian Bryan Thompson’s Laughing But Very Serious comedy show. Thursday the legend Jill Scott returned to her hometown North Philly to perform her first night of the Who Is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds Vol. 1 anniversary tour at The Met. That same night at World Cafe Live was also the same night of Voices of Philly Soul Ladies Edition where local female musicians and singers like Black Canvas, Carla Gamble, Noel Scales, and Dom B show what soul music from the Philadelphia region sounds like currently. And just when you think Philly is getting full from taking in all this good soul music, soul singer Ari Lennox arrived at The Fillmore on Saturday for her age/sex/location tour which was like a perfect dessert after a soul food meal.

Alex Vaughn | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The opening acts for the night were singers Alex Vaughn and Jai’Len Josey who both had two things in common; it was their first time performing in Philly and they both had their parents in The Fillmore crowd showing their love and support. First on stage was east side of Atlanta’s own Jai’Len Josey. After performing a couple of songs off her Illustrations EP like “Can You Do It For Me?” and “When We Jump,” she made strangers in the house realize she was a woman with a delightful personality and a powerful voice from heaven. By the end of her set Jai’Len Josey won Philly over.

Up next from PG County in Maryland, Alex Vaughn got the crowd rocking by covering “Foolish” by Ashanti. Because it was her first time performing in Philly, she paid homage by performing “It’s Love” by Jill Scott. Alex kept the crowd’s ear with the way she transitioned from her original songs to classic hits like performing her own song “Do You Ever” and then going on to cover its sample “Cater to You” by Destiny Child. She even got on the keyboard to play and sing “IYKIYK” and “Junkie,” going went right into “Can’t Help It” by Michael Jackson. She finished her set with “So Be It” off her most recent project The Hurtbook, and like Jai’Len Josey, Alex Vaughn was able to win over the crowd with her voice and prepare them for the main act Ari Lennox.

Ari Lennox | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The stage looked elegant, with multicolor lighting brightening up silk see through curtains, as if you had just entered a queen’s bedroom. The house lights went down and as soon as the crowd heard piano keys, they roared with excitement. Then came the main attraction of the night: DC’s own Ari Lennox, walking on stage with a platinum shiny trench coat, looking the star of a Bad Boy video directed by Hype Williams as she performed “POF” and “Waste My Time” off her most recent album age/sex/location. Lennox thanked Philly for coming out to the show and excitedly said that the crowd had tripled since the last time she performed here, which was in 2019 at The TLA. She then gave flowers to artists from the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection like Musiq Soulchild, Jazmine Sullivan and Jill Scott who influenced and inspired her sound.

Ari then took her coat off, looking like divine royalty in her rhinestone dress, and performed “Outside.” On stage along side her were three background singers and an all-woman band on drums, keys, and bass. The set looked looked like the stage for American Bandstand or OutKast’s “Hey Ya” video. Things then sowed it down and went into  “Mean Mug,” and with the curtains plus the colorful lights, it felt a mood was set behind closed doors. All three background singers got to show their vocals skills on “Boy Bye,” “Unloyal,” “Leak It,” and “Sit On It.”

Ari Lennox | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Ari Lennox thanked everyone in the audience who loved age/sex/location and then it took back to back for her day ones and performed fan favorites like “New Apartment,” “I Been,” “Purple Haze,” “BMO,” “Up Late,” and “Back Seat” from her 2019 debut Shea Butter Baby. Just like her two opening acts, Ari Lennox was sweet to the crowd, sometimes silly and awkward but still blunt enough to say whatever comes to mind — a perfect persona for Philly. For her last two songs, she performed “Shea Butter Baby” for her babies with the skin of mocha, and ended the night with her gold single “Pressure,” written in part by opener Jai’Len Josey.  As stated earlier, the past week was a phenomenal week of soul music for Philly,. and Ari Lennox at The Fillmore was like a slice of peach cobbler, strawberry cheesecake and sweet potato pie for dessert to end a soulful music meal.

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