R&B star Marsha Ambrosius has a reputation almost as much for her mouth as for her music.
She is known for telling it like it is in concert – a no nonsense approach in telling off that woman who took up with Marsha’s man or her man who has a girl on the side. She’s been known to dish and dish it out in concert in the spirit of 1970/80s soul princess Millie Jackson. If Miss Jackson was X-rated, Ambrosius is more R-rated but, on Sunday at the Fine Line Music Café in Minneapolis, she dropped her share of words unsuitable for print in the Star Tribune.
Still, Ambrosius wasn’t raunchy, though she peppered her patter with fiery trash talking. And she used hashtags projected on a backdrop to deliver messages. For example, #sophisticatedly ratchet was her way of describing her style – a little classy, a little trashy.
She mostly came to lay out her rules of relationships or, more specifically, to diss, dice and discipline her man – with a few love songs mixed in.
At times some of her tunes suggested Alicia Keys doing Sade but Ambrosius, who was sporting long braids and a wide-brimmed hat a la early Keys, has a voice with more range than either of those stars.
A Brit who has lived in Philadelphia for several years, she demonstrated everything from a seductive coo to hip-hop cadence to high trilling that suggested perhaps a little classical training somewhere along the line. She clearly can be an emotional singer, as evidenced on “Your Hands,” with its piercing pleas, and the big ballad “Run.”
Sometimes she came up with intriguing musical ideas such as the boss nova cool of “Kiss and F**k” but it was merely a short interlude that lasted less than two minutes. “Stronger,” her reworking of Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride,” was musically uncompelling but proved that she can wail vocally. More appealing was “La La La La,” a seductive love song that mashs up her own work with Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” (a mini-ripoff?).
Ambrosius’ second Fine Line appearance this year, the 80-minute performance went over well with the many women in the audience – and even a few of the fellows they brought with them.