The Gospel of Miguel: The Wild Heart Tour Experience
Wild Heart is thematically excellent. It weaves the ethereal, sexual, powerful and passionate into one cohesive project, feeling deeply personal and also celebratory. Seeing Miguel in person placed an entirely different spin on the album. Wild Heart is, in many ways, a love letter to Miguel’s hometown. It is the environment that shaped him, while exposing him to music and stardom at a young age. The city defines Miguel just as much as he defines himself. And like an ever-evolving metropolis, he works continuously to escape boxes and shatter our need to cling to false ideas of normality. He ties his fantasies, struggles to fit, and his desire to live boldly all in one exquisite project.
What came across during his live performance is his ability to capture the fullness of life through his musical projects. He did not clutter the stage with pyrotechnics or incredulous uses of technology. Instead, he assembled a talented band clad in all white and offered celestial visuals while he serenaded the audience for nearly two hours. He covered most of his new album, offered favorites and bared his signature well-defined eight pack underneath a white motorcycle jacket. The fan blew the tassels and feathers of his luxurious garments and he gazed out into the crowd with mischievous glances before breaking into his signature surf-like dance moves. He did several splits, moved his hips and put on a high-quality show. But one of the standouts was his insistence on sharing what can only be described of as the gospel of Miguel.
In between songs, he would offer asides that the cynical among us might find fault in, but many would find them uplifting and also revelatory, expressing the essence of what drives his projects. Miguel does not make music simply to adhere to genre standards or to offer his best attempts at one-upmanship. It is clear he makes music because he has to, because it is his calling. In doing so, he does not shy from taboos, as we hear in songs such as “Valley” and “Pussy Is Mine.” Instead, he dives into the salacious parts of our psyche and adds his angelic voice to the raunchiest of subjects because it is usually there that we find the spice of life. It’s clear that Miguel wants his audience to have an experience that transcends music and forces you to think beyond the subject matter in his songs and about the limits we place on ourselves.
He offers an intimate look at what drives his curiosity, demonstrating that he fundamentally believes limits are the thing that prohibit creativity, success and perhaps your chance at Nirvana. It seems that Miguel is on a mission to provide high-quality music, but also a full throttle experience, one in which you change the way you think about yourself after you leave. It’s an easy sell when you consider who is delivering this message, someone with the full package: musicianship, good looks, naughty charm, an impressive physique and a captivating singing voice. He wants his audience to engage in the practice of daring to create a personal philosophy so that we avoid wading into self-hate just because we don’t meet certain criteria.
His “What’s Normal Anyway” is the most obvious example of this and does not necessarily fit the flow of the rest of the album. But after watching him perform live, it’s the song that perhaps best defines Miguel as an artist that should, above all, be credited for pushing the boundaries about how we view ourselves. According to Miguel, there is no excitement in normality. And where other artists seem to engage in this idea more for the accolades or the shock and awe of showmanship, Miguel’s insistence on being unique is authentic and has a lot less to do with costumes and outward signifiers and more to do with a deep understanding of self.
His performance in Seattle was electric and felt like a rock show more than an R&B concert. It is this distinction that I believe will separate Miguel from the new school R&B acts he will be competing with for awards, critical acclaim and the like. None of them have the same level of deep charismatic promise or empirical showmanship. And while we live in an age where feelings are frowned upon and the emo drug-ridden woman-loathing anthems tend to be the upper echelon of musical stylings for acts like The Weeknd and others, Miguel is more sensuous than crass and he is not afraid to run the gamut of feelings. He offers an uplifting message where he has the crowd repeat a mantra that could easily be uttered in church, a self-help group or a 12-step program but instead comes from his heart. It seems as though he views his music as a prayer, not one based on the grandeur and unforgiving idea of purity but one that is down to earth with the aim of finding a higher plane of peace. Better still, you can tell he is having a blast being himself.
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