In the four years since she was first introduced to us as a finalist on “American Idol,” Jennifer Hudson’s ascent has been so meteoric that her accolades almost seem to have preceded her actual accomplishments.
She does one movie (“Dreamgirls”) — and wins an Oscar.
She records one CD (“Jennifer Hudson”), with only one hit single at that point — and wins a Grammy.
Well, if skeptics were thinking that the movie and music industries had made 27-year-old Hudson a star before she really earned it, all they had to see was one show: Last night’s concert at the Fox Theatre.
Hudson is a wonder. And not just because it is remarkable that she is out in front of audiences mere months after her mother, brother and nephew were killed.
But because on the first night of her two-night stand in Atlanta - the second show being Thursday- this relative newcomer arrived with an ease with the audience that never let on that this is her first tour ever. She has a command of not only her own rather ordinary R&B material, but such greats as Aretha Franklin’s (“Something He Can Feel”), Chaka Khan’s (“Sweet Thing”) and Whitney Houston’s (“You Give Good Love”). And most spectacularly, every song she sang seemed to effortlessly emanate from this much older, wiser core layered with gospel heft and Broadway delivery.
Hudson wasn’t much about on-stage banter during her near hour-long set. But it was clear from the standing ovation the ever-slimmer talent got before her first song (“One Night Only” from “Dreamgirls”) to her bare-footed encore (of course, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” also from “Dreamgirls”) that she connected with the three-fourths full theater.
As for opener Robin Thicke — whose made three Atlanta appearances since the release of his latest CD “Something Else” — it was more of a disjointed affair. His musical pacing was off, as if he had to rush through his hour. Though he is three albums into his career and much more of an established live performer, he seemed a bit less comfortable; striking statue-like poses at the microphone and taking his leather jacket off, and on, and back off again. And with the exception of his breakthrough hit “Lost Without You,” he drew the biggest reactions — and best displayed that he could do something vocally other than a nice, fluttery falsetto — from the DeBarge (“All This Love”), Al Green (“Let’s Stay Together”) and Jodeci (“Come & Talk To Me”) covers.
Planning to go to Thursday’s show? Did you see Hudson at her more intimate “V-103 Soul Session” at Sugar Hill last year? Were you there last night – and if so what did you think?