"We are going to make tonight legendary," ChesnuTT called out. "Are you ready St. Louis?" A decade has passed since ChesnuTT came to prominence with the release of "The Headphone Masterpiece," a "Ulysses"-like stream-of-consciousness romp of rock, reggae, hip-hop and soul that chronicled his disillusionment with the music industry. A lot has happened in the past 10 years which has resulted in a new outlook on life and a new sound.
The G.E.D. Soul All-stars started the night in an almost Blues Brothers fashion with a Memphis groove that harkened back to the sound of Booker T & the M.G.'s to introduce opening act Myron & E. Taking the stage Myron & E hit their stride early having the band switch gears from the raw, Memphis-inspired sound to slick Motown and Funkadelic grooves. Vocal duos are rare in the ever expansive world of R&B and just seeing them perform brought back images of pioneers like Sam & Dave.
With the G.E.D. Soul All-stars cranking out the grooves they blasted through a myriad of soul styling that seemed inspired by the Temptations. The duo evoked visions of classic Motown pop ("On Broadway,") psychedelic soul, funk ("Back n Forth") and a nice touch of disco ("Do It, Do It Disco.")
If Marvin Gaye's "Here, My Dear" is an album that deals with personal demons invading his psyche and the downward spiral of his personal life in 1976 then "Landing on a Hundred" by Cody ChesnuTT, who is often compared to Gaye, is the antithesis of that. Positive vibrations were in abundance in the Duck Room as ChesnuTT and his band twisted, shook and flipped his new songs of redemption, love and family into a tangled web of musical and emotional delight. The power generated from the opening riff of "That's Still Mama" kicked the audience in the spiritual ass and was just a glimpse into what the night had in store.
ChesnuTT is not concerned with performing the song as it has been recorded; for him the performance is a journey that he, his band and the audience are on. Each song was dictated by the emotions that ChesnuTT was feeling as he danced, sang and connected with the audience, giving each song new life and meaning. Behind each stylistic and emotional change was a gospel, soul and funk power players made up of Alvin "Vthov" Giles on keys, guitarist Timothy Clark, Steve Fryson Jr. on drums and bassist Jeff Gaines.
Dressed in what has become his signature war helmet, red cardigan, dress slacks, slick shoes and a t-shirt, ChesnuTT may have evoked the spirit of Marvin Gaye but he retained his own soul and vision. That soul and vision came together on the song "Love Is More than a Wedding Day," during which he bared his soul and opened his heart to the audience. ChesnuTT explained that the song was written when he and his wife were having trouble communicating and he turned to the one thing he knew best "sitting down at the dining room table with my acoustic guitar and kicking my ego into the corner and writing a song." Couples in the room responded and found themselves closer to each other, feeling a moment of love and taking comfort in the fact that everything will be all right.
To see Cody ChesnuTT and his band is akin to a religious experience; an otherworldly spirit runs through his songs and translated from him through his band and to the audience. A new and different life breathes through each of these songs, from the crowd sing-along of "Everyone's Brother," the raging "I've Been Life," "Where Is All the Money Going" and, especially, "Love Is More Than a Wedding Day." Gone are the days of anger, womanizing and confusion that infused "The Headphone Masterpiece"; in it's place is a new man with a new outlook on life, love and his music.