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Ledisi, Essence Music Festival 2012: Singer Honors Donna Summer, Flexes Comedic Muscle

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Ledisi‘s vocal abilities are clearly derived from the powerhouse songstresses of a past era. The soul singer took the main stage at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans Saturday night (July 7), showcasing her incredible range and perfect pitch for nearly an hour.

The Verve artist and New Orleans native kicked her set off with 2009’s “Higher Than This.” She floated through material from all five of her studio albums, completely at ease on stage, as the audience settled into the groove.

Ledisi blazed through a few cuts of her latest album, Pieces of Me, but not without giving a quick shout to the late Donna Summer and knocking out a couple of stiff dance steps. Shining in a sequined mini dress and heels, she shimmied across the stage, never missing a note but awkwardly missing a step or two.

“Y’all ain’t feeling it?” she joked.

Dancing doesn’t have to be Ledisi’s strongest suit: Her songwriting and voice steal the show. And if she never makes it to her sixth album, she could move into comedy, as she wisecracked through her entire set. Before her 2007 hit “In the Morning,” a song about mistrust in relationships, she smirked and said, “Some of y’all are sitting next to ‘dysfunction’ right now … They’re probably your ride home, and you can’t say anything.”

When she moved into “Stay Together,” she quipped, “I don’t have anyone here with me, so I’ll have to sing [Jaheim’s] parts.” She effortlessly belted out her verse while switching to a lower register to capture Jaheim’s interwoven lyrics.

Ending her first main stage appearance with her biggest hit single to date, “Pieces of Me,” Ledisi was determined to ensure that her audience was satisfied to the very last line.

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