ACL Review, Photos: Charles Bradley, Friday, Vista Equity & KUT’s Four Seasons Showcase
No one knows just how many talented musicians toil in obscurity their entire career, always just missing their big break. By that measure, 62-year old Florida soul singer Charles Bradley is one of the lucky ones.
And he knows it. He never even recorded until 2002 – thank the retro-soul revivalist fanatics at Daptone Records for that – and even then his output (a variety of singles with different backing musicians) was uneven.
But he seemed to find a perfect match with label mates the Menahan Street Band. To the few that have heard it, his album No Time for Dreaming is one of the year’s great surprises, a solid soul delight. Live, his performance was masterful, though not without awkward moments.
His voice has a rugged Otis Redding muscle to it, but his live show betrays him as much more of a James Brown acolyte. His onstage moves (splits, wild hand gestures, dance steps) and dated wardrobe (some weird jumpsuit in the morning, a sequined and shirtless vest in the evening – pot belly be damned) would seem silly on most men his age, but Bradley pulls them off by pure conviction.
He’s engaging because he’s so happy to be where he is. Friday night, pouring sweat, Bradley kept a large audience mostly in place for the next act, Mavis Staples, wildly entertained with his stone grooves. Yet both sets had pacing issues, and oddities like his cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”, that killed the momentum.
Still, I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked “who IS this guy?” by so many people. He may have a gotten a late start, but he’s quickly making up for lost time. -Jeff McCord
–Photos by Bob Cross
KUT Showcase at The Four Seasons
Rarely does a performer burst onto the national scene at the ripe age of 62. But that’s exactly what Florida native Charles Bradley did over the past year. Bradley spent the better part of his life living on the streets, scraping to get by. He spent time cooking in kitchens for the better part of his adult life, performing as a James Brown impersonator (he called himself “Black Velvet”) on the side. Daptone Records discovered the one-time James Brown impersonator in 2002 when he was down and out after his brother had been shot and killed in his mother’s Brooklyn home.
Calling himself “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” Bradley and the folks at Daptone released his first full length, No Time For Dreaming, earlier this year to critical and commercial acclaim.
Decked out in an iridescent maroon jumpsuit and matching vest (which he promptly discarded), Bradley wowed the audience on the Four Seasons lawn with his emotional soul ballads and upbeat, funky numbers (complete with gyrations and down-on-one-knee-pleading dance moves).
Charles Bradley, Tracks:
2. Heartaches and Pain
3. No Time For Dreaming