Charles Bradley has the type of golden voice that seems almost exclusive to his generation. While Bradley is a good singer, his strong suit is his ability to howl. In his show Friday night at Turner Hall Ballroom, Bradley evoked memories of James Brown not only with this soulful voice, but also with his ability to move around the stage.
Bradley was backed up by a seven-member outfit known as his Extraordinaires. They kicked off the set with two instrumental jams that only built the anticipation for Bradley to emerge on stage. Once he did, Bradley displayed an incredible amount of energy, making it hard to believe that he's in his early 60s. During almost all of his songs, he found a moment to step away from the stand and show off some of his moves. He also occasionally displayed some well-honed tricks with the microphone stand. The most impressive one he repeated was where he'd start to knock the stand down but at the last second, yank the cord back up, returning the stand to an upright position and the microphone to his hand. At the conclusion of each song, Bradley bowed to the adoring crowd. Often times this act was preceded by Bradley flapping his arms in slow-motion to build up to the bow.
It was clear that the audience's appreciation for Bradley's efforts had an impact on the performer. In between songs, he repeatedly declared how much he loved the crowd and how he felt their support. "Don't make a grown man cry," he implored half-jokingly. The way he was working the stage, any of those tears would've blended right in with the sweat on his face.
After Bradley had entertained with yet another fast-paced song, he took a brief intermission. During this time, the Extraordinaires once again played an instrumental tune that kept spirits high while awaiting Bradley's return. When he came back after being reintroduced, they launched into a fabulous cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," which appears on Bradley's debut album, "No Time For Dreaming."
While most of the show had been at an up-tempo pace, the second half of the set was slower but still very enjoyable with one exception. The only low point was the penultimate song of the set. Bradley spent the majority of this song acknowledging each member of his Extraordinaires and allowing them have a moment to shine with a solo. The problem was that the song was very slow and Bradley took too long in going from member to member. The whole ordeal lasted about 15 minutes, during which time a segment of the audience decided to leave. While Bradley meant well, the band already had performed three instrumental songs on its own and didn't need such an overlong gesture.
After finishing their set, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires returned to perform an encore. The last song of the night, "Why Is It So Hard," atoned for any mistakes that had been made towards the end of the concert. Bradley focused all of his energy into this song that is soaked in pain, but also has a surprising dash of strength and perseverance. The latter is an element that Bradley clearly has an abundance of. Despite his hardships and being an unknown for over half a century, Charles Bradley now has the attention of music fans that might have feared his type of sound was gone. He might have been a late bloomer in regards to being noticed, but now that he has been, it's hard to imagine his performances being forgotten.
Little Barrie served as the opening act for the night. In spite of having a name that sounds like it could be a fellow soul or blues musician, Little Barrie is actually a contemporary British trio that evoked memories of '60s rock with a hint of a surf sound as well. While an unexpected pairing, Little Barrie was very charismatic and definitely impressed with songs off their album "King Of The Waves."
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