Grammy-winning artist Ledisi Young, better known as simply ‘Ledisi’, graced The Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night (July 24) with a smooth, sensational performance of a musical setlist that consisted of Nina Simone’s greatest hits, along with a dash of Ledisi’s original music.
The performance was a mixture of jazz and R&B with the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins playing alongside each number.
The show comes on the heels of Ledisi’s most recent album release, ‘Ledisi Sings Nina’, which is a seven-song tribute to the beloved Nina Simone.
Ledisi’s undeniable talent and charisma was on full display, winning the crowd over more and more after each song. “I’m nervous!” she proclaimed on the microphone after her opening song of the performance, perhaps Simone’s most well-known track, ‘Feeling Good’.
Although Ledisi surely didn’t show any signs of nervousness, her statement of honesty brought the zealous crowd to laughter and a roaring applause. She went on to perform other Nina Simone hits such as ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’, ‘Be My Husband’, ‘I Put A Spell On You’, and more, with the night concluding with ‘I’m Going Back Home’.
Throughout the night, Ledisi gave the audience a crystal-clear understanding of the deep admiration that the she holds for Nina Simone. It was her spot-on character impersonations between each song, and the personal, poignant story that she shared with the audience, describing the very first time in her life when she felt connected to the iconic singer– “Doctor Nina Simone,” Ledisi consistently referred to her as.
Ledisi was in her late-20s and battling deep depression. Her life’s dreams and aspirations, at the time, were continuously facing harsh rejection. Despondent and discouraged, Ledisi sat in a rocking chair on her front porch, debating if life was even worth living anymore. She recalled a dark moment when she pondered “how to leave the earth.” But in that moment, as she sat in a rocking chair debating if she wanted to go on with life, the sound of “Doctor Nina Simone’s” piano came blaring through the speakers that sat inside of her house. It was ‘Trouble In Mind’ that was playing. The dark cloud left, and Ledisi rose from the rocking chair. “I got my spirit back!” she recalls.
Since then, the singer-songwriter sure has come a long way. ‘Ledisi Sings Nina’ currently sits at #1 on the Jazz genre Top Albums chart, and this is far from her first taste of success. Ledisi is a 13-time Grammy nominee. This past March, however, was her first Grammy win, taking home Best Traditional R&B Performance for her original single ‘Anything For You’.
On Saturday at The Hollywood Bowl, as the end of the night approached, Ledisi, in a cathartic moment of gratitude and grace, says to the delighted crowd, “Thanks to Nina for getting me here.”