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Jake Mulka

André 3000 came out of retirement to tour his surprise new ambient jazz album.

“I just made all that shit up,” a beanie- and overalls-clad André 3000 says after delivering a powerful speech of gibberish that sounds like he’s speaking in tongues.

He explains to the crowd gathered at the Masonic Cathedral Theatre for his New Blue Sun performance in Detroit that it’s a combination of every language you’ve ever heard and that sometimes it feels good to just make noise. In fact, weird noises are encouraged at this show.

André 3000 and his ensemble played three gigs in Detroit on his New Blue Sun tour, one at Cliff Bells on Thursday and two at the Masonic Temple on Friday. He and his backing band — comprised of Carlos Nino, Nate Mercereau, and Surya Botofasina — riffed off songs from the reclusive rapper’s surprise new instrumental album, released in November, playing some of the main melodies and freestyling the rest. New Blue Sun is an improvisational album anyway, so it made sense. Throughout the tour the band will end up playing new music every night.

The smoke machine works overtime to billow hazy streams across the stage in the dimly lit cathedral. A blue laser beams down onto André’s flute from the balcony as a chorus of ring lights glow like luminescent all-seeing eyes cutting through the darkness.

André changes flutes several times throughout the show, sometimes playing distorted notes that sound more like they’re coming from a keyboard. The most interesting thing happening onstage isn’t André himself, however; it’s the percussion coming from Carlos Nino, who uses mallets to play the cymbals like a gong. Gentle wind chimes and thunderous beats like a war drum fill the cathedral like a sound bath meditation.

The best way to enjoy the show is to close your eyes. The music allows you to settle into stillness and as the night progresses I notice the tension in my shoulders and legs before allowing the music to melt it away.

click to enlarge André 3000 performed in Detroit’s Masonic Cathedral Theatre. - Jake Mulka

Jake Mulka

André 3000 performed in Detroit’s Masonic Cathedral Theatre.

André invites the audience to join him in releasing whatever noises they feel like as he growls and purrs like a panther before playing “That Night In Hawaii When I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control … Sh¥t Was Wild.” While there’s a bit of hesitation and no one quite lets themselves go completely, the crowd obliges with the occasional yell or “whoooo.” He tells us to take deep breaths, stand up, and stretch like an internal voice embodied.

In between songs, André gives short speeches, telling us how he began playing his flute in Los Angeles parks and met Nino in a grocery store, leading them to record New Blue Sun in his garage. He says that when he plays his flute in public, people from all cultures come up to him, because every culture has their own version of the ancient instrument.

“Whaddup doe,” he says. “I learned that yesterday.”

The Detroit crowd loves it.

The audience seems to be waiting for a climax but there isn’t one. Just four guys making it up as they go along like we’re all ultimately doing in this life. As the end of the night draws near underneath the crucifix hanging from the venue’s ceiling, frantic notes and screeching melodies start to feel like a horror movie soundtrack with the cathedral’s stained glass windows as a backdrop.

Appearing humble, he shouts out all the great music coming from Detroit, including the late new age jazz player Yusef Lateef.

“Tell Jack White we want to make some music with him,” André 3000 says before thanking the audience for allowing him to explore and leaving the stage.

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Randiah Camille Green

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