Article by: Will Napoli Sugar Water Gives Strength to the Wise
September 6, 2005
In March of this year, Georgio Sabino III had an opportunity to meet and photograph Jill Scott while she appeared at the State Theatre. A year earlier he had shot Erykah Badu at her show in the same venue. Scott was so taken by the energetic, smiling Sabino who has photographed hundreds of celebrities from all fields of note that she invited him to photograph the Sugar Water Festival where she would be performing alongside Queen Latifah and Erykah Badu. Sabino knows a good gig when it surfaces so he agreed to take the metropolis-hopping, night-shooting, beaty, big, beautiful job.
Traveling with the band on the 20-city tour, Sabino was treated to the best amenities and an inside look at this powerful enterprise concocted by Latifah but owned in equal parts by the triumphant triumvirate. These award-winning songstresses are icons in the industry and ever-rising markers in the progress of creative, entrepreneurial African American women. Sugar Water attendee Jeffri Epps in Atlanta pointed out, “You’re getting to see three women each of whom could easily have carried the show on her own.” Sabino found them compelling and unbelievably in touch from the very start.
In Columbia, Maryland, Latifah’s people were in the crowd and it made for a special evening under the stars. In fact, all the shows were at outdoors arenas as much to celebrate the summer as provide the widest possible audience. Their alternatively tough and tender tones were sent out into the world and up to the heavens. Meanwhile, Sabino was busy capturing the moments in photos that he would send off to the tour’s promotions department. As powerful and in charge as Latifah and her two partners are with ownership of the tour, they are equally astute in delegating duties to allow them to relax and enjoy the experience. It’s work, but it’s joyous work.
The first to arrive on site and the last to leave, Sabino is in charge of getting the shots: the ladies stepping off their personal tour buses, the roadies setting up the stage, backstage, on stage, the crowd, the sets, the finale, the wrap up, heading out to the next gig. In Atlanta, festival attendee Robert Arrington, Jr. had a chance to see Sabino at work and was impressed by his equal attention to getting great shots of the audience as well as the performers. On his days off, Sabino rests, thankful that the celebratory bliss these women exude is such that his work is also joyous work. From 7 to 11 PM on the nights of the shows, thousands get to experience the feeling coursing through Sabino like an electric meal.
Floetry was probably about the best pick for an opening act as could be made. Their contrasting styles of lyrical soul and percussive spoken word exemplify the unison of separate models of womanly empowerment in a moment of art that spans traditions and emotions. They encompass Mother Earth and make her sound like a little girl leading the choir or leading a band of street soldiers. Its no wonder they get standing ovations even before the headliners hit the stage.
Queen Latifah gave two performances in one all on her own as she changed up her jazz and soul selections from “The Dana Owens Album” and went back to where it started for her professionally with Hip Hop blazing through numerous selections in her allotted time. That would prove to be a major theme throughout the shows: elegant, powerful ladies with range. These divas turn barriers into bookmarks as they each sing from a fat book of songs. Latifah strode off stage through the crowd with her finale, “U.N.I.T.Y.” and slapped hands to stress the point.
Jill Scott took her time with her songs. She stretched half as many songs as Latifah sang into elegant studies of the human voice. By the time she got to “Whatever” she was enticing the audience with her sultry seductions enough to put them in a frenzy. Then she finished strong, belting out “He Loves Me.”
Erykah Badu delivered her rare blends in the final set starting light and heading into “Danger” where she trailed away from the accompaniment on an a capella excursion that made the case for her status as a modern diva. Then she returned to playfulness in her finish with “Tyrone.”
As couples in the audience took in breaths to remind themselves of where their individual bodies were in relation to the new unity of themselves and the world reborn in the night’s raptus, the three stars joined on stage to sing “Never Too Much” in remembrance of Luther Vandross and reminder that it’s true. There’s never too much love, whether it’s the love of singing to the next town or the love of providing community service when the proceeds get put to use.
Sabino is back in town, having just covered the Don King Showtime fight card at the Gund arena. He’s also busy with Models-at-1900.com looking for the right young woman to sponsor in spring boarding a new career. There’s never too much work, but he’s going to take a break soon. Not because he’s worn out, but because he has to focus on how best he can help his family in Pascagoula, Mississippi, as they try to rebuild their lives after hurricane Katrina. “Sabino” means wise and his family comes from Pascagoula, but it may be no coincidence that Georgio Sabino III has recently been energized by three fertile souls and become awash in deep thoughts in the songs of his generation.