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Live Review: Yaya Bey @ Union Stage — 5/25/24

Queens-raised Yaya Bey isn’t afraid to tell you how she’s feeling, but it’s always musical. Even when she was just talking, it seemed as if she was keeping time in her recent show at Union Stage.

For Yaya, the pocket wasn’t just floating between verses and choruses, like a great percussionist, she seemed to live life in the pocket, flawlessly weaving admissions of heartbreak with self love and gratitude. This vulnerability was appreciated by the packed Union Stage crowd on Sept. 25, but what I appreciated more than anything was her unwavering positivity. If the topic was heavy, she’d smile through it with remarks like “God’s got me.”

Local group Foots x Coles set the groove with a smooth set before Yaya came out. I was encouraged to see their equipment left out for Bey’s band. She proved on April’s Tiny Desk performance that she’s more than comfortable in front of a full band, and she engaged with them regularly during the show. Her voice carried surprising power throughout the night, surprising because she spends much of her critically acclaimed recent release, Ten Fold, soaking in the grief of loss with soft vocals and careful production.

“Maybe if I get up I’ll stay up this time.” Yay sang on “yvette’s cooking show.”

Stream “yvette’s cooking show” by Yaya Bey on YouTube:

Loss can shake anybody’s confidence, but authenticity can’t be replaced. Bey showed that time and again at Union Stage. Her love for her music, for her craft, for her bandmates and her fans is reciprocated 10 times over from all who are in her presence.

While she leans on her faith to carry her through tough times, I’m sure that many of those in attendance will continue to lean on her and her words for lessons in grace and resilience.

Here are some photos of Yaya Bey performing at Union Stage on Sept. 25. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Gabriel Adler.

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