comScore

Miguel unites the political and the sensual at the Palace

Miguel onstage at the Palace

Miguel onstage at the Palace Billy Briggs

Miguel blessed the sold-out Palace Theatre Friday night, backed by a full band that lent an amped-up edge to the Los Angeles R&B dynamo’s eclectic sound.

Though chiefly concerned with the sensual, Miguel’s latest album, War and Leisure (which he gave out free to ticket buyers) also details his political mindset more explicitly. The short video that preceded his set highlighted his support of immigrant rights and his work with Black Alliance for Just Immigration, to which he’s donating a portion of his tour’s merch proceeds. In this way, Miguel gracefully kept the fight for social justice in focus even as he celebrated the seductive joy that’s drawn listeners into his music since “Adorn” broke through in 2012.

Miguel set himself apart from the modern “alt-R&B” contingent, running through a nearly two-hour set that covered the breadth of his career. His edge of danger, intrigue, and carnality, which just skirts nihilism, was balanced by a vibe of positivity that emanated through the building. His earnest aura particularly shone through when he engaged with the crowd, whether he was breaking down the bare essentials to good living (eating, smoking, laughing, and fucking) before strumming the introductory licks to “Simplethings”; prompting us to say “splish splish” throughout the set to amp us up for the inevitable encore, his latest hit “Sky Walker”; or waxing eloquent about the true nature of the universe and our experiences.

Miguel was cloaked in darkness initially, in silhouette against a brightly lit backdrop, visible only in movement. It was a great rock star moment. He displayed a panache that never seemed overstated. He effortlessly shifted from a calculated stumble into a seamless glide, a sensual gesture into a full-body pelvic thrust, a rock star writhe into a cock-of-the-walk strut, all with a fluidity that felt unchoreographed and in-the-moment. Miguel believes in the power of the performance, and recognizes the art of dance as essential to the form.

Live, Miguel’s songs definitely take on more of a rock feel, with the band generating an air of spacey psychedelia. “We didn't come here to put on some Auto-Tune and have some bubbles in the background,” Miguel said shortly before introducing the band. “I’m really up here singing and dancing!” And with that each member proceeded to solo in turn.

Though his music is rooted in traditional R&B, Miguel also showcased an ear for modern styles and cross-cultural sounds throughout the night. “Caramelo Duro” showed off his multilingual skills, with Spanish lyrics partially written by Kali Uchis, while “Pussy Is Mine” exhibited him at his most bluntly dirty, while maintaining an old-school vibe. With a natural stage presence and an artistic versatility that allowed him to move seamlessly between styles and moods, Miguel held this complex mix of sounds together.

Click here to see photos of Miguel at the Palace

Setlist

Criminal
The Thrill
How Many Drinks
Banana Clip
Sure Thing
Harem
Wolf
Do You…
Simplethings
Power Trip
Told You So
Deal
Caramelo Duro
Come Through and Chill
City of Angels
Coffee (Fucking)
Waves
Pussy Is Mine
Adorn
Anointed
Pineapple Skies

Encore

Sky Walker

About the openers: Nonchalant Savant and SiR both share Miguel’s knack for an understated rekindling of classic R&B vibes. It’s no surprise Savant works in a similar style to the headliner—he’s his brother, and he later joined Miguel for the energetic “Deal.” Sir, TDE’s latest signee, ran through songs from Her and his latest, Her Too, with closer “I Know” standing the strongest.

The crowd: Dancing and singing words to most songs. It seemed as though they’d followed Miguel through his career.

Overheard in the crowd: “You know you’re a 10. Summer’s just around the corner.”