The casual observer might take a quick listen to the music of St. Vincent and Erykah Badu and feel that they couldn’t be more diametrically opposed in style and approach. The former blends elements of rock, jazz, and classical into polyrhythmic art-house material, whereas the latter is a veritable queen of neo-soul who is undeniably influenced by hip hop and has made recent excursions into the electronic world.

However, while their songs may not share the same tempos and arrangements, they definitely are a pair of kindred musical spirits, as evidenced by their co-headlining show at The Hollywood Bowl on Sunday.

St. Vincent graced the stage first, rolling out a set that deftly showcased singer/main musical force Annie Clark’s knack for angular guitar playing and song arrangements meant to keep listeners on their toes. This is someone who toured with and released a collaborative album with David Byrne of Talking Heads, and it’s easy to see how that teaming has shaped and further influenced her music. Clark mostly played songs from 2014’s St. Vincent album, bolstered by a heavy synth sound and polymath-inspired rhythmic section that kept things moving while still occupying a headier space than one might expect for a big show at The Hollywood Bowl.

And again, did I mention that she absolutely slays with her guitar playing? Things never strayed too far into a synthetic sound because her axe-work — emotionally raw yet technically top-notch — was always there to keep things grounded. Choreographed back-up dancers also provided a visual flair to the hour-plus set. Just before hitting closing number “Your Lips Are Red,” Clark dashed out into the crowd mid-song for a musical freakout, at one point shoving her guitar into the hands of a stander-by and rocking out with no reservations. It was fun. It was weird. It was perfect.

Erykah Badu’s set seemed pretty tame in comparison, but that doesn’t mean it was lacking in personality or energy; it was just refined and more reserved. Backed by a relatively stripped-down band compared to past tours, the Dallas-based singer opted for a more laid-back approach, kicking things off with a very neo-soul vamp that segued into “20 Feet Tall” off her last album, 2010’s New Amerykah Part Two. Since that record is five years old and Badu is not touring to promote a particular project, fans were treated to a mixed collection of her discography, ranging from neo-soul staples “On & On” and “Appletree” off her debut Baduizm to more recent cuts like “Out My Mind, Just in Time” and “Me.”

Her performance rarely elevated above a cool groove, which was somewhat surprising considering her more recent experimental approach to records and collaborations with Flying Lotus and Bonobo, to say nothing about her more high-octane performance with The Roots earlier this summer during the BET Awards week. But regardless of the flavor that she chooses to provide at a single concert, it can’t be disputed that Badu is a superb band leader and has an incredibly strong vocal range and presence. She’s also as funny as any comedian I’ve ever seen, cracking the audience up not just with between-song banter but other third-wall-breaking moments and sly nods during the performance itself.

By the time Erykah Badu hit show closer and penultimate live jam “Tyrone,” The Hollywood Bowl was on its feet and clamoring for more. She and St. Vincent may not work within the same genres of music, but they’re cut from the same cloth — two fiercely creative musical geniuses unafraid to do exactly what they want.

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Erykah Badu
St. Vincent