Celestial Strength

Solange’s Ephemeral Rise at the Greek

By Anastasia Le

Solange Knowles is powered by the sheltered core of pain, crafting pulses of song and dance in a comforting afterglow. On the final night of her “Orion’s Rise” fall tour, the genre-bending artist invited her congregation of concert-goers to join in a celestial body of strength. Beyond talent and celebrity, Solange Knowles is the modern deity of fortitude, and leads her fans through a lasting meditation into the uncertain future.

The harsh October sun ascended beside me on my journey to the Greek Theater. As fellow eager fans lined up along the sidewalk, Solange began her sound check, and I felt equal parts excitement and relief. When I first listened to Solange’s 2016 album, “A Seat at the Table,” I didn’t expect her voice to guide me through the following months of confusion and disarray in American society. A year later, when she announced a second show date to her revered fall tour, I saw this as an occasion to honor the anniversary of a life-changing healing experience.

Solange cultivated a fan base known for their shared creative energy. The people I encountered were prepared for a night of celebration. The clop of tall block heels and jingle of beaded tapestries thrown over the shoulder complemented the light conversation taking place. One woman wove flowers into her hair and another wore twisted braids that fell to the back of their knees. The person next to me peered over a copy of Angela Davis’ “Women, Race and Class.” One individual, with defined dancer’s limbs and professional composure, performed a silent interpretive dance to the music playing from their bulky over-the-ear headphones.

The concert took place on the final night of the celestial event which shares the name of Solange’s tour: Orion’s Rise. In ancient Egypt, the Orion constellation had great significance. The three pyramids of Giza were built to recreate the shape of the constellation itself. Writers Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert co-authored “The Orion Mystery,” documenting their findings about the deliberate, celestially-driven construction of the pyramids. They wrote that “the pyramids were much more than just tombs: they were nothing less than a replica of Heaven on Earth.”

Solange’s set featured two pyramids which flanked a large sphere balanced on a wide staircase, all in white. The large geometric set pieces echoed the pyramids and Egyptian mythology. According to writer Andrew Collins in a blog post about the constellation, “the deceased king accessed a star portal corresponding with the astronomical coordinates of the Orion constellation. Reaching here permitted the soul entry to a sky world seen as the location of the afterlife.”

Solange opened with “Rise” as a salutation to the sun’s departure and the night sky’s entrance. From there, she performed her most powerful songs about despair, pain, and loss such as “Cranes in the Sky,” “Don’t You Wait,” and “Weary.” Though I was in a theater with hundreds of people, I felt myself receding into my own consciousness. In that moment of reflection, I felt completely alone, with only Solange’s voice guiding me through a blue fog of meditation. I could barely detect the shivering bass and onset of the cold.

It wasn’t until Solange began “F.U.B.U.” that I began to wake, from a wobbly daze to the increasing tempo and energy of the fan-favorite track about ownership of the black experience. With lyrics such as “Don’t clip my wings before I learn to fly / I didn’t come back on the Earth to die” and the recitation of the phrase “This shit is for us,” I sensed the theater, the majority of which was black, rising together in understanding. As a non-black person, one of the final lines, “Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along / Just be glad you got the whole wide world” has helped me navigate my relationship with “A Seat at the Table.”

Solange ended the performance with one last red-washed hurrah: “Don’t Touch My Hair.”

Sophia Sanzo-Davis, who attended the concert, shared with the BCC Voice that it was a “spiritual moment” for her.

“I believe that hair plays a significant role not only in how others perceive you, but in how you perceive yourself … It’s refreshing to see an artist like Solange create a positive attitude regarding black hair,” said Sanzo-Davis.

Since its release, “A Seat at the Table” has been revered as a beacon, shining a light on the experience of black women in America. Throughout the album, Solange speaks directly to and for her community, sharing stories of anger, redemption, and strength. I connect to her work through its meditative energy and unique artistry, but also through her exaltation of the black female experience. Solange is an icon of diverse, intersectional feminism founded in understanding and acceptance, and though I am not her target audience, I am touched by her indestructible sense of self.

At the top – The set of Solange’s “Orion’s Rise” fall tour at the Greek Theatre on Oct. 22, 2017. Photo: Sophia Sanzo-Davis

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