Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires and Aaradhna @ the VaC (8/29/13)
As I've written elsewhere on this blog, I LOVE me some old-school soul/R&B/funk. Stax, Motown, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield (with or without the Impressions)--I could go on all day. This show caught my attention, then, because I'd heard talk of Charles Bradley being one of the best modern keepers of the old-school flame. Admittedly, I did have some reservations after hearing his latest album Victim of Love, but they weren't enough to dissuade me from checking this out.
There were about 150 people at the VaC when I arrived. I have no idea how many were there when Charles Bradley performed. One thing's for sure: I'm definitely not the only one who digs the old-school stuff.
New Zealand singer Aaradhna opened the show. This lady had me right when she sang the line "I don't wanna take that sh*t for granted" in her first song. And with her other songs about getting bullied by the cool kids when you're younger and turning Miss Lovely's pretty smile into a frown, she kept me. She had a whole lotta muscle in her sultry voice, but she was smart enough not to flex it too hard. The medley that combined Willie Nelson/Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and Sam Cooke's "Nothing Can Ever Change This Love" was just gravy. As for the song that borrowed the chorus from "Pressure Drop," hey, I love Toots and the Maytals too.
Charles Bradley played next. This set was an object lesson in how live shows can sometimes top recordings. While Bradley's massive vocals sounded a little one-dimensional on Victim of Love, they were just the thing to cut through the roars of applause here. His high rasp and self-abasing scream bore the clear influence of James Brown, but he topped the Godfather of Soul for warmth and friendliness. The same went for Bradley's whole stage act; while the set featured three costume changes, you never sensed any of Brown's vanity or control-freak egomania. Instead, I actually believed the man when he said he loved the audience "to the bone" and "from the soul." Meanwhile, the band couldn't match Maceo, Bootsy, Clyde et al., but 1) that's asking way too damn much and 2) they clearly learned their lessons well from Stax and Motown. I may not have gotten a hug from the "Screaming Eagle of Soul," but this was still one of the best shows I've seen this year.
Sidenote: I feel like I should mention that I listened to Charles Bradley's 2011 album No Time for Dreaming afterwards and liked it a lot. It features quite a few lyrics about being black and poor in America. Now that's worth screaming about.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.