Initially slated to take place at the 4,600-capacity Atlanta Civic Center, the show was yanked out of there at the 11th hour in favor of the infinitely smaller Opera in Midtown, which holds just over 1,000 when stuffed to the rafters.
That wasn’t a problem. The venue started out full – though chunks of the crowd were members of the performers’ entourages – but by 10:30 p.m., attendance dwindled significantly.
Can you blame anyone for finally bolting in frustration?
Despite an 8 p.m. ticket – and numerous promises by those attached to the show that it would start on time to accommodate all of the acts supposedly on the bill – it was shortly after 9 p.m. when hometown favorites Arrested Development hit the stage for a spirited version of “Tennessee.”
And then, they were gone.
After an endless 45 minutes, during which the crowd was entertained by standard club thumpers blaring out of Opera’s impeccable sound system, R&B singer Keke Wyatt, apparently christened as the show’s hostess, appeared to introduce Atlanta’s Ray Lavender.
Showing off his biceps and killer smile, Lavender, a skilled rapper with a knack for melody, joyfully bounced around the stage and wagged his tongue lasciviously at the ladies. But even the infectious “Woozy” and Lavender’s requisite (and so, so boring) command to “make some noise,” was greeted tepidly by an audience expecting advertised headliners Erykah Badu and Rick Ross.
So with Lavender’s 10-minute set finished, what was a crowd to do?
Ah, listen to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” filter through the club’s speakers, of course. And truthfully, hearing a song that at least tiptoes into the same stratosphere as anything from the “Soul Train” era was the highlight of the night.
Nearly half an hour after Lavender’s brief set came reggae star Mr. Vegas, who asked those who “listen to real reggae music” to identify themselves. That was his intro to a snippet of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier,” which segued into Mr. V’s “I Am Blessed,” sung to an electronic drum beat.
After shouting, “Love you all. Peace out,” Vegas was on his way, another grueling six-minute set completed.
By this point, it was becoming increasingly clear that an appearance by Badu or Ross was about as likely as the Dallas Cowboys turning their season around. That thought was confirmed when Wyatt returned to the stage near 11 p.m. – another 25 minutes after Vegas split – to inform the thinned-out audience that Doug E. Fresh and Trina were “in the house.” Not preparing to perform, mind you, only sharing the air.
With nothing of substance to tell people – and really, why should she be saddled with placating an assembly? – Wyatt suggested they return to the bar, get another drink and dance.
Because nothing says “Soul Train” like a disjointed, unorganized, glorified dance party on a Tuesday night.
The Soul Train Awards tape tonight at the Cobb Energy Center and will air on BET and Centric Nov. 28.