The instant the house lights dimmed at the Rialto Theatre the near capacity audience—largely young and female—began to chant with zeal, “Summer, Summer,” before the R&B it girl
even took to the stage this past Saturday, Nov 2. Unequivocally, they were there to hear Summer Walker
—who many of her devotees consider to be “the hottest female voice in R&B”—reminisce about The Last Days of Summer
on a cool fall night.
From the downbeat Walker’s band moved in lockstep. The BPM never deviated far from a slow, steady grind. Flanked by two leotard clad pole dancers, with high-heeled platform pumps, that began to twirl and writhe adding to the drama and sensuality of the faded desire in “Drunk Dialing.”
Booties were shaking everywhere.
Before her breakthrough, Walker herself worked as an exotic dancer and a housekeeper.
Between songs the dancers placed a bottle of wine and a candle on a small folding table for Walker to enjoy as she sang about Mai Tais and her consuming desire to “want to get wasted with you.”
Walker has cited straight-talking, neo-soul/R&B queens Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse as influences. She sat in a chair, guitar in hand, as if drawing from a collective pool of heartache, to sing “Session 32," a raw piece that confronts an ex-boyfriend who failed to show his love for her and commitment to the relationship.
“You don’t know what love is/If you’re too good to call a million times.”
On “Off Of You,” Walker stabbed a steely knife into the bleeding heart of R&B - The agonizing hell-ride that love can be. While plucking away at guitar strings with bare fingers, she sang, “You been mistreating me/I ain’t gonna try no more/Ain’t gonna cry.../‘cause/I’m off of you.” Convincing no one.
“This next song is about being passionately smitten.” At all of 23-years-old, Walker’s words resonated with her audience, surging like an electrical charge, bonding over shared experiences. “Ladies. Y’all better sing to this shit.” And judging by the uproar that followed, man, did they. “Girls Need Love”—a sex-positive track co-written with Drake, which rose to number two on the Billboard
charts, is poised to establish Walker as a fresh voice for young women.
Its success caught this rising star by surprise. “I really see how we are all going through the same shit,” Walker explained. “I didn’t know my music was so relatable until after the album dropped.”
Towards the end of her 70-minute set Walker called out, “Does anybody like to twerk? Does anybody want to shake their ass?” Before inviting some peeps from the audience to gyrate on the pole during “Playing Games.”
Keeping it real, Summer Walker brought the gentlemen’s club experience to the Rialto Theatre. All that was missing was a few dollar bills to tuck into g-strings.
“Thank you. I appreciate it. I love you.”
And so The First and Last Tour,
quite literally, ground to a close.
But, with everything seemingly going in her favor—Over It
(LoveRenaissance, 2019) is the highest-charting debut album for a female R&B artist in more than a decade—could this really be Summer Walker’s First and Last Tour?
“Performing gives me so much anxiety,” the sultry singer recently told Billboard
. “I would be more at peace if I could just record music and slide it under the door.”
Rising Harlem rapper MELII helped to warm things up opening the show.