One of the most compelling parts of Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce Season 2 was Big Freedia's continuous struggle to upgrade her live show. The efforts came with tough decisions—including letting go of longtime backup dancer Steph—but all the hard work seemed to pay off at Voodoo Music Fest 2014, with a set that may stand as the New Orleans diva's most polished, not to mention heartfelt, show to date.
Before the queen even hit the stage, DJ Juan warned the crowd, "This ain't no regular sh*t." Then an electric violinist stepped into the spotlight for a stirring solo performance as Freedia's dancers strolled onto stage in Victorian era-inspired costumes: The guys donned powdered wigs; the ladies rocked poofy dresses. Of course, they were not to be outdone by the queen diva herself, as Big Freedia walked out in a huge, feathered headdress, humongous fan and a flashy suit adorned with regal purple and yellow sequins.
It was a dramatic, elaborate opening. But like the DJ said, "This ain't no regular sh*t."
That sentiment continued to hold true throughout the concert, as festivalgoers watched Freedia reign over a refined troupe that clearly danced as a very-rehearsed, collective unit. Together, they seamlessly moved, twerked and shook through cuts from the singer's full-length LP Just Be Free (including set highlights "Explode," "Dangerous" and the title track), plus longtime classics ("Azz Everywhere" saw a huge group of volunteers come up onstage to twerk what their mamas gave them).
And while this performance showed off the twerk team in their 2.0 version, the homecoming set was also a nod to Freedia's and bounce music's roots.
Proving their bond remained strong, Steph came out for a few twerking cameos, much to the delight of her Shake Team Diva partner Tootie.
Plus, the set featured special guests The Showboys, in an incredible onstage collaboration that mixed Freedia, the current face of bounce, with the Queens duo whose hit "Drag Rap (Triggerman)" was the sonic blueprint for nearly all early bounce music. As the queen of the genre put it, "That was another part of history made."
The set also had a heartfelt moment when Freeida asked the audience to put their lighters and cell phones in the air for the penultimate song. She sang (yes, sang!) through a bounce-y remix of Diddy and Faith Evans' mourning hit "I'll Be Missing You," which was dedicated to Freedia's mother Vera Ross, who recently passed away. Freedia changed a few lyrics, singing on the chorus, "One day I'll see her face / My queen's in a better place." The rendition would have made you cry, if Freedia hadn't looked so happy singing it—clearly, this was a celebration of Ms. Vera.
For all its different dimensions, the set ended in classic Freedia mode, as the group unleashed their best twerk skills for "Excuse." Judging by the crowd's approving screams and the way fans asked Freedia and the dancers for photos and autographs at the set's end, it seemed that all of the Queen Diva's hard work had absolutely been justified.