One of the biggest questions recently surrounding Nicole Wray and Lady is whether or not she could recover from the departure of Terri Walker who took a sabbatical in order to focus on her solo album with Damon Albarn. The split was on good terms, but it had the potential to bury the incarnation as Lady began as a package deal. Lady’s set at Double Door in Chicago’s Wicker Park on Friday (November 15) was a good testing ground.
Nicole’s a pure talent. Her voice is powerful and robust, with a nice crackle to it giving her a distinct sound all unto herself. She’s a throwback, but manages her talent with contemporary flare. It’s no wonder why her relationship with Truth & Soul works so well.
Walking on stage there’s no missing Wray. She wore high heels and a skintight yellow dress with black polka dots – her hair, a deep burgundy accenting her baby face. She commanded the stage and tamed a crowd that was already seething from the set thrown down by the Soul Summit DJs (Sloppy White, Duke Grip and Dave Mata).
She opened with “Tell the Truth” which was a smart move. Wray is a power singer, and the slow tempo allowed her to take her time with the song, romancing the lyrics on her own terms. It was a good way to distance herself from the absence of Terri Walker: [LISTEN]
Wray maintained a regal disposition throughout. The only downside was the mediocre band and the lone backup vocalist who at times seemed like she was on a desert island by herself. They were all in tune, but they couldn’t match Wray’s intensity. She could have benefited from at least one more singer. It was a subtlety that hampered Lady’s most successful single, “Get Ready:” [LISTEN]
What stands out most with Lady is that the songs aren’t always steeped in heartache. Wray isn’t a damsel in distress begging for a man to save her. She’s a woman who earns her own keep (“Money“), believes in the principles of eastern philosophy (“Karma“) and most importantly loves her mom (“Sweet Lady“): [LISTEN]
In the end it’s difficult to say whether or not Lady is better off as a single entity. Terri Walker is a serious talent whose soft disposition complimented Nicole’s bombastic personality. The contrast would have created a nice balance, but for the most part she had her way, owning the stage as a veteran diva would.
She kept her set tight, and looked amazing doing it. But if Wray wants to extend Lady for at least another album she’s going to have to extend beyond the hook friendly, safe bet ballads and step out on a limb with some bold writing like she does on “Waiting on You:” [LISTEN]