André 3000 Brings His Solo Album ‘New Blue Sun’ to the Stage

Monday night featured a special guest: Laraaji, the titan of improvised new age music. When he arrived, the tenor of the room instantly changed. Playing zither and kalimba, a solar-intense Laraaji unlocked sheafs of astounding, ethereal noise, an unintended, confident rebuke to what had been happening before his arrival.

The true anchor of the group was Niño, who played deeply dimensional percussion, stacking layers of jagged and coarse sounds: a gong, a few broom-like shakers, a contraption that sounded like chiropractor bone-cracking. At times, he was almost rancorous, nudging André to noodle more aggressively.

He also understood that the audience, and its wonder, was part of the concert as well, but perhaps it needed a little coaxing. At one point on Monday, Niño stood up and began encouraging the crowd in a kind of woofing callback — the first moment where the audience’s worship was broken and rechanneled into something participatory and, frankly, fun. On Wednesday, Niño again interjected in a lulled moment, urging everyone to engage in some exultant stretching.

André’s return to the stage was a matter of curiosity for other artists, who came to witness it firsthand — on Monday, Marina Abramovic; on Wednesday, Questlove, G-Eazy and Jerrod Carmichael. They were part of crowds seeking to observe how a superstar can disappear in full public view. André partly vanished via the uniform — a long-sleeve nature-themed T-shirt, engineer-stripe overalls and Air Jordan 3s — that he wore at both shows, and has for almost every recent public appearance.

Phones were not permitted — they were locked in pouches — raising the question of whether something happening in these rooms was being hidden or protected. But that absence forced a concentrated listening, or at least forbade a distracted one, which proved useful during some of the night’s rangier moments. The enforced reverence also removed the sense of time: The sets, both around 90 minutes long, felt boundless. (The back of the T-shirts for sale at the merch table read “No Bars, No Phones.”)

Monday night, in the grander venue, André was backlit, which meant that for almost the whole event, he was discernible largely in outline, cloaked. It was less a confrontation, and more a plea to be observed less closely. “It’s not really a show,” he averred. “We’re not really performing for y’all.” Instead, he said, the intended audience was “the air, the trees, the water.”

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