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Monday, 06 May 2013 20:27

Concert review: Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires (with Bump and Hustle DJs and Paul & the Tall Trees) prove the power of soul and love at the Old Rock House, Sunday, May 5

Charles Bradley at the Old Rock House Charles Bradley at the Old Rock House Roy Kasten
Written by Nathan Brand

After a dreary weekend in St. Louis, Charles Bradley arrived with a surplus of soulshine Sunday night at the Old Rock House.

As the crowd socialized before the show, Bump and Hustle DJs were spinning tunes live from a set of turntables in front of the soundboard. The pair's selection of timeless R&B sounds drenched the already damp crowd filing in from the rain.

A blend of red, yellow and purple lights shone on the stage, illuminating the array of vintage instruments and amps. Hollow body guitars lay face first against the speaker cabinets as the opening act, Paul & the Tall Trees, found their way to the stage.

The band's frontman, Paul Schalda, identifiable by the large "P" stitched onto his cardigan, stood stage left as he greeted the growing crowd.

Beginning as a four piece, the band opened with the lazy strumming of crunchy minor chords. It was around the fourth song that the rest of the Extraordinaires joined in to fill the stage with horns and tambourines.

Though the band overall maintained the signature Daptone revivalist tradition, the songwriting at times seemed to come straight from early '90s grunge influences. With sweaty hair down to his shoulders, the Schalda's dynamic delivery raised the crowd's energy as they anticipated the arrival of the soul man they had all come to see.

After a wardrobe change, the band returned to the stage grooving on a couple tunes, including "Summer in the City," before the keyboardist grabbed the mic to introduce the man of the hour.

Bradley, welcomed by warm cheers and applause, blew kisses and bowed humbly as he took the stage. Dressed in all black, shirt open to his navel, and already starting to sweat, he looked fresh off a disco dance floor.

Beginning softly, Bradley moaned into the opening lines of "Crying in the Chapel." The seven-piece backing band kept their eyes and ears tuned as the 64 year-old showman danced, sang and shouted his way around the stage.

Straightaway it was apparent that this was more than just an adaptation from his days performing as Black Velvet, a James Brown impersonator in New York. Bradley has indeed absorbed a lot of influence in both sound and style from the Godfather over the years, but the words he sang certainly came from his own heart.

Touring in support of his most recent release, "Victim of Love," Bradley expressed his pains of positivity through songs both old and new. Highlights included, "Love Bug Blues" and his breakthrough single "The World (Is Going up in Flames)."

"Raise your hand if you wanna go to church," Bradley instructed the now packed audience. Cheers resonated throughout the venue as he launched into, "You Put the Flame on It." Midway through the song, Bradley tossed away his suit jacket and went all in. Shaking and gyrating, as he threw the mic stand and retrieved it by the cable the crowd couldn't but smile in appreciation of the pure entertainment.

Initially confused about where his exit was, he left the stage for a wardrobe change as the band played on.

The keyboards once again took center stage to reintroduce "The Original Black Swan," who came out in a royal blue jumpsuit and black sequence robe. Again he bowed to the crowd before kicking off "No Time for Dreaming."

Partway through the second set, the band faded out as Bradley shouted the reverb-soaked vocal intro to "Confusion." The audience's energy skyrocketed as he took control of the theremin and began dancing his unique variation of the robot simultaneously.

Finishing the set, Bradley left the stage briefly before coming back to his album's title track, "Victim of Love." Continuing his encore with, "Why Is It So Hard," Bradley sang his autobiography before turning to direct the band.

"Bring it on down fellas. I don't know what I'm gonna say, but I'm gonna say it from my heart."

Overwhelmed with joy, Bradley spoke plainly to the equally joyous crowd.

"Thanks for the love you've given me, 'cause I'm gonna give it all back," he explained. "You are the reason I'm on this earth."

The band played on as Bradley stepped off stage to make his exit directly through the cheering crowd. Hugging everyone he could on his way to the back, Bradley could be sure his message of enduring love and gratitude was shared with all.

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