It’s been a year since the release of Solange’s A Seat at the Table, an album that became a spiritual salve amid the 2016 presidential election and ongoing, Black Lives Matter-led organizing against police brutality. A year later, we’re still inundated with discriminatory policies and tragic news, and A Seat at the Table is as relevant as it ever was.
In promoting the album, Solange was un-abstract about its thesis: “a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief, and healing” -- the central identity being the artist’s own, a black woman, mother, sister, and daughter. The critically acclaimed album gave its listeners a source of comfort in the face of hopelessness and articulated racial microaggressions that too often leave us stunned.
On Friday, Oct. 20, Solange brought Orion’s Rise, an immersive live experience in support of A Seat at the Table, to a sold-out audience at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. Most of the audience members were intimately familiar with the album and this rare headlining tour was a chance to experience it publicly and communally.
After opening sets from Chassol and Flying Lotus, the Greek Theatre reached full capacity and it was finally time for Solange. Her set arrangement was at once celestial and post-modern. Two large pyramids -- likely a reference to the Giza pyramids, where she recently found out she was conceived -- bookended steep stairs. An enormous, glowing sphere sat in the middle. Even before Solange's band had played a single note, the stage was stunning and mesmerizing. A 20-piece orchestra dressed in light grey dripped down either side of the sphere to take their seats on the grand steps. The crowd’s anticipation was audible as they waited for Solange.
Bathed in red light, Solange made her entrance from above and walked down the steps with a smile on her face. She began the show with a choral rendition of “Rise,” repeating the titular refrain in escalating tones. This rendition fit the meditative song, which reflects on self-awareness and self-assurance. The night would feature many more viscerally moving elaborations of her music, which her and her band's movement and choreography amplified.