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First Listen Live: Esperanza Spalding

Watch a First Listen Live with Esperanza Spalding.

Esperanza Spalding (photo by Holly Andres)


Fulfilling the performance-art vision of her spirit-muse Emily, Esperanza Spalding played the music of her new album Emily's D+Evolution in concert at BRIC House in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Thursday, March 3. WFUV and NPR Music presented a live video webstream of the performance as part of the First Listen Live series.

Emily's D+Evolution marks a new sound for Spalding. Here, she picks up the electric bass (and occasionally the piano) and surrounds herself with a power trio of electric guitar and drums — a louder, proggier, weirder funk-rock direction for the jazz-trained bassist and vocalist. It's part of a broad theatrical vision for the character Emily, inspired by broad philosophical musings on resourcefulness and the nature of progress. On stage, she was surrounded by choreographed routines, a marionette closet and three backup singers dressed all in yellow.

"Whether you want to see it as devolution and evolution, and the place where they co-exist without one diminishing the other, or you could look at it like barely having the tools that you need, but having to move forward, and having to keep moving," Spalding told NPR. "What do you do when you don't really have all the tools that you need, but you have to survive? And you need to grow and expand?"

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Set List:

  • "Good Lava"
  • "Rest In Pleasure"
  • "Ebony And Ivory"
  • "Elevate Or Operate"
  • "Noble Nobles"
  • "Judas"
  • "Farewell Dolly"
  • "Funk The Fear"
  • "One"
  • "Earth As It Is"
  • "Unconditional Love"
  • "I Want It Now" (Encore)

Personnel: Esperanza Spalding, bass/vocals/piano; Matthew Stevens, guitar; Justin Tyson, drums; Corey King, backing vocals/synthesizer; Shawna Corso, backing vocals; Emily Elbert, backing vocals/guitar; Will Weigler, co-director.

From the FUV Vault: Hear more about the inspiration behind Emily's D+Evolution, in Esperanza Spalding's recent Guest DJ set and conversation with FUV's Rita Houston.