Okay so it’s finally time for the Soul Train Awards, which taped in Atlanta on November 10 and airs tonight at 9 p.m. on both BET and Centric. This is probably one of the times when it’s definitely better to see it on television because, in person, the show required patience greater than most humans possess.
It all started out shaky. First of all, the arrival time for those with tickets was 7:30 p.m. The show was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. and the purple carpet kicked off around 6 p.m. Atlanta traffic, however, did not get that memo thanks to a multi-car accident around 14th Street.
Of course the line to get in at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre was longer than a church sermon but getting in was a lot easier than anticipated, allowing enough time to pop into the social media room before taking a seat at the top mezzanine, dead center, where the view was wonderful. The only problem was there was no show. Comedian Damon Williams was funny but there’s only so much a person who isn’t the main attraction can do.
The show finally started around 9 p.m. Show hosts Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson interacted a lot. It wasn’t that Terrence and Taraji weren’t funny; the problem was how slow-moving everything was. There was so much dialogue between the two of them that it seemed more like a variety show than an awards show. Magic tricks and dance-offs are fine and dandy, but did it have to take so dang long? Okay, so maybe the dance-off was hilarious and worth the wait.
Spoiler alert: R. Kelly checked in with the first performance and he rocked it. First it started with a medley of his hits coming from masked R. Kellys from the various balcony booths. Who knew who the real R. was until he stepped on stage? It didn’t matter because cuts like “Your Body’s Calling” just have a way of taking over.
Once firmly planted, he treated the audience to a rendition of his new song “When a Woman Loves.”
Coming with the throwback steez of yesteryear — think ’50s doo-wop and ’60s soul — R. Kelly began belting out his heartfelt “I really messed up”-themed latest and then there was a twist. Let’s just say that he got his Ray Charles on. That was most certainly a highlight of a show that literally went on for hours and hours. Those who made it all the way through the taping and weren’t on payroll deserve a prize for real. For others, it was a stay-as-long-as-you-can moment and this reporter was in that bunch. Even still, there were great highlights.
Now the Anita Baker tribute was indeed off the meter. Definitely must-see TV. Chrisette Michele, Tamia, Lalah Hathaway, Faith Evans, Kem, Rachelle Ferrell, Goapele, Dionne Farris and El DeBarge. Erykah Badu put in an interesting performance. Well actually it was very good and very creative. It’s kind of hard to describe other than she’s on the ground for the performance and it looks hi-tech, like video-game-ish.
Cee-Lo is always good for theatrics so why hold back for Soul Train? He performed a more FCC-friendly version of his hit “F**k You.” Eric Benet could sing “Sometimes I Cry” three million times straight and most women would not mind. It’s nice to hear a guy singing about heartbreak for a change. Tank, in his thug-life attire, looked a little out of place for the Soul Train Awards during his solo performance. Ne-Yo also performed, taking a moment to rap, which was a bit surprising for the Soul Train Awards, which is known for R&B.
Interestingly there were actually some awards given out. The Atlanta-born Raven-Symoné and longtime Atlanta resident Keshia Knight Pulliam, both "Cosby Show" alums, presented one award together. B.o.B. won but he wasn’t there and that gave Bruno Mars (the singer/songwriter behind "Nothing On You") the perfect opportunity to come up and accept the award. Yes, so random. More interesting or entertaining was Wolf Blitzer being game enough to learn how to Dougie with Doug E. Fresh. It was so entertaining that Eric Benet turned away from his interview in the social media room to look at the live feed of Doug E. teaching Blitzer how to Dougie.
Back of Eric Benet again, he showed up throughout his days in Atlanta with the lovely Manuela Testolini, Prince's ex-wife, who also happened to be in Mumbai during the vicious terrorist attacks two years ago around this time. She and Benet have been dating for some time now.
Another highlight of the social media room was seeing Anita Baker. Although heavily escorted, Baker, who is petite, seemed very grateful to be honored. She spoke of how initially the music industry tried to change her by putting wigs on her and just trying to manipulate her look. But she couldn’t do or be anything other than herself so that’s what she rode with. During the actual tribute, she said she was most touched that everything was done with a live band. “This is real. This is what soul music is,” she said, while accepting her legend honor.
Unfortunately a show rolling into the wee hours, rumored to be past 3 a.m., is not one that all can endure. It was bit painful to miss the Ronald Isley tribute, of course. Just thinking of not seeing Bilal, R. Kelly, Eric Benet, Keyshia Cole and El DeBarge serenade Mr. Biggs live still hurts. Thankfully it will be televised. But even with its way-past-anybody’s-bedtime taping schedule, let’s hope that Soul Train hits Atlanta again next year. Because despite all the challenges, it was still — to quote legendary Soul Train founder Don Cornelius — a “stone cold blast honey."
Soul Train Music Awards
Pre-recorded at Atlanta's Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Dec. 10, the 2010 Soul Train Awards air Sunday, Nov. 28 on BET and Cenric.(Photos by Shannon McCollum)
3 people apparently love handing over an extra 40% in fees for nothing in return…
Dang. I thought they would name some actual headliners.
Forgot to mention that Iggy did a stellar show @ the Agora in the spring…
Their fees were onerous, to say the least. $16 per ticket for "convenience," and it's…
That poster is for the Iggy Pop show on March 11 1983 @ 688 club…
oh sweet: just who i was waiting to get announced!