by Brianna Smith-Herman —
While some say Memphis can be a tough crowd to impress, J. Howell didn’t have much persuading to do when he brought the RedRoom Experience to the Halloran Centre For Performing Arts and Education at the Orpheum Theatre.
The show (Oct. 29) was sold-out. Fans poured into the venue, making their way to the merchandise table and the bar to get something to commemorate the night.
Between sets, familiar R&B music blared through speakers, ranging from “Damage” by H.E.R to “Some Way” by Phyllis Hyman.
The house lights went down at 8 p.m., signaling that it was time for the show to begin.
Memphis’ R&B artist Ashton London opened the show, taking the audience through his introspective journey as a young man in love. London, began his four-song set with “Levels” and ended with his new song “Interfere with Love.”
He also gave us a chilling rendition of Jazmine Sullivan’s “On It” and, when I say that man can sing…. He can sanggggg!!
Minutes later, Dondria Nicole sauntered to the stage in her sparkling sheer black jumpsuit. The Atlanta native opened with SWV’s “Weak.”
Her set consisted of more great R&B singing. She performed her latest single “Let it Be” and ended her set with her most famous song “You’re the One,” from her debut album “Dondria vs. Phatfffat.”
Following Dondria’s set, the anticipation for the headliner’s arrival heightened as the band and stage props, and dancers made it to the dark platform. With the stage just right, the crowd was greeted by the sounds of the organ from the album’s premier track.
Shortly after, J. Howell appeared on the stage and he began his set with “Love You in The Morning.”
As he sang, he flung his black and red coat open revealing his chest. He also wore a black boater hat, black jeans and black Prada tennis.
“Welcome to the RedRoom Experience!” he said. “We gone fall in love, we gone cry, we gone get sexy.”
He glided right into his single “Fire” off his debut album before sending the audience into bliss with his latest summer single “Why You Hurting Me.”
As soon as the bass line from “Somethin About Ya” started, the crowd roared again because, like me, they couldn’t get enough of this soulful serenade.
As the end of the show drew near, we were anticipating what’s next and what will close the show?
Howell eased through the second verse of “Talk,” as he introduced Kyle Hippy for his entrancing verse, and that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Hippy, who’s from West Memphis, brought that animated rapper energy to the set.
From start to finish, Howell took his fans on a rollercoaster ride of sounds, emotions, vibes, and feelings, as he performed his entire debut album, “RedRoom.” He commanded the stage with each note and interaction, prompting fans to hang on to every little moment.
Ironic as this may sound, because both artists are from Memphis, but in my opinion, J. Howell is reminiscent of my favorite female singer, K. Michelle.
His vocals peak unlike a lot of artists and it’s all-natural. He guides the music instead of having the music guide him. He is the focus and he is able to vividly paint pictures with his lyrics.