I’ve always wanted to see Miguel live—yes, even after that god-fucking-awful “Miguel Leg Drop” incident at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards. Based on the merits of his four studio albums, I've long felt that his talents as a singer/songwriter are criminally underrated. Of course, Miguel’s artistic influences should be apparent from his new project War & Leisure, which melds his familiar, sex-positive themes with a fiery, political energy and heavy-reverb guitar; without legends like Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye paving the way, Miguel’s rise wouldn’t even be possible. And yet, it’s Miguel’s talents as a songwriter and live vocalist that qualify him for modern-icon status in the R&B-psychedelia genre.
When I arrived at the Roseland yesterday evening, I became severely and instantly pissed that either a) I read the event listing wrong, or b) the event’s start time was changed without my noticing: I had missed opening act SiR’s set, which I had been greatly looking forward to. Still, the reality that Miguel was about to take the stage meant nothing could soil my attitude for long. The show was also a bit unusual since it was strictly for audiences ages 21-and-up—a designation that immediately makes any Roseland event much more appealing.
Luckily, the increased access to alcohol meant everyone (including me) was LIT. The crowd seemed to be predominantly excitable women, some of them smartly accompanied by dates; a bunch of relentless, horny shrieks from the audience made my inner fangirl feel right at home. Impatiently squirming while I waited for Miguel to take the stage, I watched a brief scuffle go down a few paces to my right, saw one too many couples showcasing heavy PDA, and admired a fan in front of me who was wearing a red “MAKE R&B MUSIC GREAT AGAIN” hat.
When the lights cut out, I hurried into the photo pit and awkwardly attempted to make art out of iPhone photography. Standing atop a flight of lit-up stairs and backed by an excellent band, Miguel opened up his set with the sexed-up War & Leisure track “Criminal,” apparently using the same fringe-covered mic stand from the “Pineapple Skies” music video.
When Miguel greeted the sold-out crowd, he said he’d “been looking forward to this day for a long time,” and “I’m really glad to start here in Portland.” (Awwwww shucks!) I did get a little emotional when he transitioned into “The Thrill,” (a highlight off his second studio album Kaleidoscope Dream), and brought out his guitar for a very necessary rendition of that weed-smoking anthem “Simplethings,” (written for a romantic episode of HBO’s GIRLS).
In addition to making us repeat “splish splish” a bazillion times throughout the show (the meaning of which is still lost on me), Miguel also asked if there were “any Latinxs in the house!?” and then proceeded to speak to the crowd in Spanish.
My favorite parts of the show were when Miguel made the audience sweetly sing the guitar-driven “Pussy Is Mine,” and of course, grooving to his mega-hit “Adorn,” which honestly felt therapeutic. After already performing all his oler gems, and new singles “Pineapple Skies” and “Told You So,” the encore absolutely had to be “Sky Walker.” After capturing the Portland crowd in a video for the 'gram, Miguel left the stage and took his tour north to Seattle.
After seeing the show for myself, I can attest that Miguel sounds just as good (if not better) live than he does recorded. This is the stuff of legends.