Last Night's Concert: Erykah Badu @ Good Units, NYC

With a new album set to drop this week, Erykah Badu decided to celebrate by playing a “secret” show in NYC on Saturday night at the Hudson Hotel’s underground venue, Good Units. Of course, it was about as much of a secret as the opening of Hot Tub Time Machine, meaning the last-minute tickets sold extremely fast. Those who did manage to snag one were treated to a phenomenal show from the born performer, but not one that went off without its hitches.

The first problem was the apparently poor choice of openers. From indie rock to electro-pop to B’more rap, none of it clicked with the crowd. In fact, Flavorpill fave Spank Rock actually managed to get himself booed offstage in response to one of his more questionable lyrics. The larger problem, however, was the delayed arrival of the star herself. When a DJ took the stage to seemingly lead her in, he instead ended up playing for nearly two hours, mixing tracks from Badu’s new album with ’90s hip-hop classics.

It was after 1 a.m. when Badu tweeted that she was actually pulling up at the venue. At that point, a number of attendees in the crowd had already given up and left. The majority who stayed, however, would be quick to forgive her for her lateness. Arriving onstage in a trench coat and cap, the singer dove into “20 Feet Tall,” the lead track from her new album, New Amerykah, Part Two: Return of the Ankh. With a band and backing singers behind her and a giant illuminated ankh on the balcony above, Badu instantly claimed not only the stage, but the entire room.

Those who had already seen the video for Badu’s latest single, “Window Seat,” were most likely curious as to what the artist had on under her trench coat — but rather than strip down Matt & Kim-style as she did on film, she instead removed the coat to reveal yet another jacket underneath. (To watch the far more revealing “Window Seat” video, scroll down below).

While the show would have been the perfect platform for Badu to focus on her new material, she opted to fill her set with crowd pleasers from all five of her albums, from Baduizm‘s “On & On” to New Amerykah, Part One‘s “The Healer,” along with a version of her part from Outkast’s “Liberation.”

By the time Erykah left the stage close to 3 a.m., the venue was understandably a lot emptier than when she started. With some of her fans having arrived as early as 8 p.m., it was a feat of endurance to make it all the way through. However, for those who did stay, even the impending fatigue of the following day seemed a small price to pay for such a valuable experience. We’ll be there to catch her again next time — although we might take our time getting there, too.

Erykah Badu also performs tomorrow night at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.

Photos by Michael July