By Elias Keen, Contributing Writer
Devonte Hynes, known more commonly by his stage name Blood Orange, opened his set at Terminal 5 Saturday, Oct. 1, in a way that was entirely unprecedented. He put the spotlight on Ashlee Haze, a spoken word poet, who was featured on his latest album, “Freetown Sound,” when she recites her poem “For Colored Girls.” The same poem that is sampled on “By Ourselves,” the opening and tone-setting track for the album. The poem, a touchstone for young black women in America today, set the tone for the rest of the concert.
During the hour and half long set, Blood Orange played the entirety of “Freetown Sound,” plus a few tracks off of “Cupid Deluxe” and “Champagne Coast,” and the chorus of the closing track of his first album, “Coastal Grooves.”
He brought Zuri Marley out to help him perform “Love Ya.” Later, she came out again, this time with two friends, Ian Isaiah and Bryndon Cook, to perform “Juicy 1-4.” Zuri and Dev danced as they performed together, and during “Jucy 1-4,” all four singers killed the routine choreographed by Juri Onoki.
One of the best moments in the choreography was during “You’re Not Good Enough.” Dev and one of his backup dancers, introduced simply as Jordan, twirled around stage for almost five minutes. As Dev flowed from one semi-contorted position to the next, Jordan followed. He mirrored him in an imperfect yet perfect way, occasionally even breaking off and doing his own thing.
The crowd was absolutely enchanted. For most of the concert they sang along, but during “You’re Not Good Enough” they stood in silence and just watched. Behind Dev and Jordan flashed washed out images of what appeared to be pre-9/11 New York. As the crowd watched, entranced by the two, Dev sang, “I never was in love / you know that you were never good enough.”
As “Desiree” began, Dev disappeared behind the backdrop. The music got louder and the backdrop split into two. A spotlight flooded through the gap in the two projector screens and Dev jumped through. Half folk dancing, half tap dancing, he capered with his back to the crowd. Then suddenly he faced the crowd and was back to himself. Dancing the the smooth, yet jerky way he has perfected since the release of “Cupid Deluxe.”
The dancing and choreography is what truly brought the whole set together. It accentuated the musicality, and in many instances the social message of the music as well. There was always something interesting happening on stage. For an hour and a half there was no dead space or time.
The audience was as passionate about the music as the performers were. 30 minutes before the opener, a DJ set by Kindness, had the main floor already packed. When Dev appeared on the second-floor balcony halfway through his friend’s set, the crowd waved to him. The excitement was palpable. Fans sang along to almost every track he played. At one point, the crowd was even louder the Dev. However, they knew when to be quiet and they knew when to be loud. They knew when to dance and when to just stand and watch.
Overall, it would be hard to imagine a better set or audience. His adopted home showed up for him, and he rewarded him.