It’s time to honor one of the best in the business of soul music… He’s a singer-songwriter, wordsmith, entertainer and host – an R&B institution. I’ve been listening to Eric Roberson for the longest, definitely before I moved to NY 10 years ago! He is a humbled music lover who welcomed and supported NYCROPHONE ever since we’ve appeared on the New York soul music scene, starting our blog in 2011. Check out his latest project with Phonte, “Tigallerro“, but also his old albums and countless collaborations with other great artists like Zo!, Carmen Rodgers, Marsha Ambrosius and many more!
Our writer Mocha Carter has much love for Eric’s music as well and after recently witnessing him once again perform live at B.B. Kings, she decided to do a spontaneous write up on the concert and Mr. Roberson in general – an ode to Erro! Enjoy Mocha’s writing skills and a YouTube playlist of our absolute Eric Roberson favorites! What are yours?!
My very first time at a live concert was in 1984 or ’85 when I saw Madonna (or was it MJ?!) at Madison Square Garden. It was such an exhilarating experience and I have been attending live shows and performing ever since.
When you are offered a ticket to see Eric Roberson live, you don’t ask questions; you get out of bed and you clean yourself up and head to B.B. Kings.
Let me first say that I am a lover of all music but Neo Soul especially, so I’m quite familiar and have been since, “The Moon” was released back in ’94. I won’t lie and say, I know every song and that I’ve followed his career closely and know every album. In fact, I probably don’t know a single song off the, “Esoteric” album. I’m more so a person who appreciates his sound and has a favorite single here and there. The vault, Vol 1.5 is when I recall him jumping back on my radar, after hearing, “Couldn’t Hear Me” which was released in 2004. I began to pay more attention after the “Left” album but even then, I wasn’t a super fan. I enjoyed the album and I appreciated his voice but it wasn’t until 2009 when he released “Dealing” which he recorded with the incomparable, Lalah Hathaway, that I though, ok, I need to pay attention to this one.
I walk in to the voice of the MC making jokes about how amazing the first DJ set was and how the crowd was dancing as if they were at a family cookout. He calls the DJ back up to spin and I’m excited to realize it’s a familiar face when DJ Tillery takes his position and begins to play a few tunes that have the audience dancing and singing in their seats. His set ends and the moment arrives. The man of the hour walks onto the stage dressed in what has become his uniform; a snazzy blazer, glasses and stingy brim or fedora hat.
I smile as he begins to sing. His voice is perfection as the words flow effortlessly. “Girl you are, picture perfect.” I look over at the couple next to me as the woman sings every word and screams and the man rolls his eyes and tries to quiet her. I shake my head and chuckle as I turn my attention back to the stage, where Erro is talking about a classic tune. I giggle and anticipate he will perform “The Moon” but he has something completely different in mind. He begins, “To all the ladies in the place with style and grace…” The audience erupts with laughter and he pauses to say, “I said it was a classic.” He proceeds to do sort of a Hip-hopera medley that starts with Biggie, continues with Tribe Called Quest, Meth and Mary to Marvin and Tammi’s “Your All I Need to Get By” and ends back at Biggie.
At this point I’m all in. I’m intrigued not because he does outrageous riffs and flips on notes, but because his voice is simply pure and smooth, holding high notes and singing with ease. He took my breath away on more than one occasion and we were only a few songs in.
He brought out the legendary jazz saxophonist and flutist Najee for a couple songs and nearly drove the crowd wild when he alluded that Lalah would join him to perform. She did not. We laughed hysterically when we realized she wasn’t coming out and he sang the duet as a solo.
Erro is extremely charismatic and naturally funny and I find myself laughing heartily often throughout the performance as he tells poignant stories and engages with the crowd as if it’s just a regular day and he is not onstage pouring his heart and soul out to us. One such story is a beautiful recollection of a recording session with “Pop” after which his father joins him on stage to perform, “Do the Same for Me” an incredibly sweet ode to love.
He’s telling another story and before he finishes I realize I am standing on my feet and screaming because Phonte of “The Foreign Exchange” has come to the stage. They perform, “It’s So Easy” from their latest project a collaboration album entitled, “Tigallerro.” I sing and giggle and dance in my seat and hold the hand of the woman next to me as her companion continues to roll his eyes. We sing obnoxiously loud along to “Better” (one of my favourite Foreign Exchange tracks.)
The show is almost done and he gets everyone’s name who is celebrating a birthday so he can sing to them.
After doing that he explains that he is a writer and he can create on the fly, so he has audience members scream out random words so he can create a song. Words were thrown out like, “radiation” and “caterpillar” and one woman stood up and yelled “Sausage!” I’m laughing thinking; this is going to be pretty silly. But he somehow grabbed the phrases out of the air and mixed them together to create a fantastic R&B freestyle!
Erro is a two time, Grammy nominated, veteran that has been in the game for over 20 years but still manages to remain humble. He spent at least an hour after the show conversing, taking pictures and signing autographs for his fans. I snuck in between fans to snag a picture and I laughed as he told me my write-up better be good! His energy is magnetic and he is tremendously engaging. It’s no wonder that his following is so strong. They don’t make many artists like him anymore.
As I sit here typing with an Eric Roberson playlist playing, for inspiration, I’m reminded that he’s a brilliant song writer and story teller and I wonder why I slept on him for so long. He is a natural performer and his stage presence is something that you MUST experience. I am now, unquestionably, a fan and cannot wait to see him perform again so that I can help out a “growing black family” LOL!
(Mocha Carter is a freelance writer who contributes to Nycrophone, Huffington Post and Hype Hair.)