One disappointing imitation of soul

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 08:45 24/02/2014
Charles Bradley
CHARLES BRADLEY: Rasping and shouting passes as singing.

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MUSIC Charles Bradley

James Cabaret, Saturday

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American soul singer Charles Bradley arrives to the stage in a red suit that wants to find the middle ground between Elvis in Vegas and Eddie Murphy in Delirious but is just thrift-store knockup. No matter.

He arrives to the stage punch-drunk, like he just went 10 rounds with the biggest, sourest lemon - the clench of his sweat-stained face should sell this show.

He arrives to the stage with the backstory of being discovered around the time most people retire from the music industry.

He's a soul revivalist, his many years of knocking out an earnest James Brown tribute inform his karaoke pelvic thrusts, dance moves that belong at an RSA.

His band, The Extraordinaires, knows how to ride the groove - they know how to manufacture the jubilation - it takes two guitarists to approximate the sound of one; the horns are dizzyingly weak.

Bradley's voice is busted. Broken. But if you've lapped up the backstory already, trotted out for a slice of what could almost be soul you're sure you've seen James Brown's second coming, made up for never getting to see Otis Redding.

Actually, Charles Bradley cannot sing. He shouts. He shouts and screams and his voice is a thin, horrible rasp. But that pinched-up face that tells you he must really mean it is actually the thing doing the most work.

Bradley sounds nothing like Brown and Redding and the greats he's so often compared to. In fact all his voice does is grate - he's Baby Huey without the ferocity. He isn't all that different, actually, from hearing Jimmy Barnes in Soul Deep (dis)guise.

Just a few songs in, Bradley disappears to give the band some. No Tower of Power - it's more Villa of Vanilla-funk. The keyboardist then huckster mugging, ambling forward to ask if we were ready for the man of the hour to return. He'd not been on stage for even half an hour.

Encore shtick ripped off from the outskirts of parodyland, served up as second helping of a second coming.

I found it all rather insulting. But plenty of people were really feeling it, man!

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