Watching Dwele kick off a three-night stint at Oakland Yoshi’s Friday, it was hard to tell if he was more concerned with singing or with making every lady in the house blush.
Propped up on a stool, center stage, he casually did both.
In between songs, he cast attention on the ladies in the front row. First he asked a woman to hold up her left hand so everyone could see her wildly sparkly bracelet, telling her “You knew I was gonna come mess with you.” Later he pointed out a woman who was getting “comfortable,” with her “keys, purse, everything” set on the stage. Snapping his finger, asking the ladies in the house to provide some choral accompaniment on “Flapjacks,” Dwele said, “Ladies, here’s what I need from you ….”
That was all the invitation another fan needed to holler, “What you need!”
“Watch yourself!,” Dwele fired back. “I’m close. I can get down [there].”
And near the end of the show, he did just that. Dwele descended a short flight of stairs into Yoshi’s cabaret-style seating, and explained that the song “Cheatin’” was not about being unfaithful, but about a girlfriend that “changed it up” for him. The swooning hordes were completely uninterested in hearing about any girlfriend — and a handful of them auditioned for the role, using every bump and grind in the book to try to keep Dwele for themselves.
Dwele worked the audience with finesse, but the music held the proceedings together. At any time, there was a continuous backbeat provided by a snap or handclap coming from the crowd, the vocalists, or a drum pad. And as the crowd whooped it up in the aisles, the band — dressed in un-tucked white dress shirts, skinny black ties, and thick-rimmed glasses — continued to groove with precision.
Drummer Stix kept the crew anchored, excelling when Dwele called for numbers in 6/8. Oakland’s own Kev Choice held down the keys, finding a lot of gospel feeling in Dwele’s catalog. And of particular note, instead of using female backup singers, Dwele employed two tenors, J Tait and Lloyd Dwayne, who matched Dwele’s smooth-and-rough delivery, while bolstering the idea that it’s okay for a dude to be sick in love and still keep his masculinity intact.
If you’re unable to make one of Dwele’s shows, take a listen to his new record, Wants, World, Women. The lead song, “I Wish,” features the lyric I wish I made music that appealed to the masses. Yoshi’s might not pack in the masses like the Oracle Arena, but a good number of the fans seem prepared to follow Dwele to the edge of the Earth.