Monday, February 13th, 2012
No Time For Dreaming
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires and Little Barrie at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangA better writer might be able to come up with some angle that relates the sudden one-day cold snap that hit Toronto on Saturday and the long-awaited, much-anticipated local debut by Mr Charles Bradley at Lee’s Palace, but sadly, all I can come up with is something like how it was cold outside but hot inside and that’s pretty weaksauce, so I’ll just move on.
A little surprisingly, support for this tour came from across the Atlantic in the form of English power trio Little Barrie, who were familiar to me as I’d written them up way back in 2005 and generally dismissed them but in a “not my thing” way rather than “this is terrible”. And while I don’t necessarily get the sense their sound has changed much over the years, seeing them play it became clear that what fails to impress on record can really wow in a live setting. Offering a pleasantly modern take on punk-infused blues-rock with a good, heavy groove and the right amount of guitar heroics delivered with what I think the kids call, “swag”, their set was loud, energetic and an ideal warm-up. If you’re seeking the future of rock, you’d be well-advised to look elsewhere; just fixing for a good time? Stick around. Their third album King Of The Waves hits February 25.
Even though he only released his debut album No Time For Dreaming last year and has been on most peoples’ radars for only about that long, Charles Bradley’s live shows are already something of legend, and what kind of legend doesn’t deserve a little build up? And so it was that before taking the stage, his 7-piece band The Extraordinaires got up and got down for a couple of instrumental tunes that showed off the band’s ability to groove – exceptional, if you wondering – and work the crowd up just a little more. Goodness knows the full house didn’t have to be asked to give a warm welcome to “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”, but we were and we did as he strode onstage resplendent in a shiny red satin jacket.
Bradley is a fascinating performer. On the one hand, he had a deep bag of crowd-pleasing stage moves to draw on including some loverman disco dancing and impressive mic stand tricks. But on the other, his songs are filled with pain and hurt informed by a long, hard life that was only now giving him his due and all of that was etched onto every line of his face, every grimace, every bead of sweat and in every impassioned rasp of his voice. Dressing up emotional rawness in showy raiments created a strange balance of sorrow, spirituality and sex all infused with deep, old soul. And so of course the only rational response was to dance.
Amidst the selections from Dreaming, they included a couple covers which were highlights of the set – a sublime reading of Clarence Carter’s soul standard “Slip Away” and a deliciously funked up version of Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold”. After an hour-long set, Bradley returned with his third costume change of the night and a stirring encore of “Why Is It So Hard?”, during which Bradley went into preacher mode and earnestly proclaimed his love for the audience, which was returned back to him five hundred-fold. As the band played him off into the audience for hugs and handshakes, that should have been the perfect finale but after a few minutes, Bradley returned to the stage looking deeply and genuinely grieved and offering some words having just been informed of the death of Whitney Houston earlier that evening. It was a sad postscript on a great night and a reminder that in this life, there will always be heartaches and pain.
Photos: Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Little Barrie @ Lee’s Palace – February 11, 2012
MP3: Charles Bradley – “Heartaches & Pain”
MP3: Charles Bradley – “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)”
MP3: Charles Bradley – “Now That I’m Gone”
Video: Charles Bradley – “Heartaches And Pain”
Video: Charles Bradley – “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)”
Video: Little Barrie – “How Come”
Video: Little Barrie – “Surf Hell”
Video: Little Barrie – “Pay To Join”
Video: Little Barrie – “Love You”
Video: Little Barrie – “Long Hair”
Video: Little Barrie – “Free Salute”
NPR goes Craig Finn-crazy, posting both a Tiny Desk Concert where he plays two non-album songs and a World Cafe session. The Riverfront Times also has an interview and The Quietus solicits a list of his favourite albums.
Nada Mucho talks to Mitch Mitchell of Guided By Voices; note that though this was just posted last week, it apparently took place back in January right before the band cancelled their European festival dates, raising rumours that the band had again disbanded which were declared false. All of which is to say the drama at the end of the interview? Ignore it.
It’s video time with Eric Bachmann, in the form of a new one from Crooked Fingers taken from last year’s Breaks In The Armor and also a pile of vintage Archers Of Loaf clips, freshly digitized from VHS by Merge at YouTube. Vee Vee gets reissued next Tuesday.