photos by Zach Pollack, words by Parker Langvardt
Charles Bradley @ Metro on 2/18/2012
Chicago's Soul Summit DJs provided over an hour of classic funk and soul music to start the "Winter Soulstice" at Metro on 2/18.
British blues rockers Little Barrie, back on the scene once again, pounded through an energetic opening set, which had elements of soul, funk, hard rock, and country. Barrie Cadogan jerked his guitar around to evoke chaotic string bends, lifting it over his head. Drummer Virgil Howe, son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe, had tasteful touch on his thuddy-sounding kit, self-fading the volume of rim clicks and ride cymbal bell hits on one song. He sprang up off his seat several times when he didn't have to play, easing himself back down as he played fills to lead back into his part. After a mid-song guitar switch, Howe closed his hi-hat tight and launched into a powerful r&b rhythm, with bass and percussive guitar following along. Cadogan jumped on top of a bass speaker cabinet while soloing at the end of their set.
Charles Bradley's Extraordinaires began with two soulful instrumental rock jams rooted in unison guitar and bass lines, featuring trumpet and saxophone solos. Barrie Cadogan briefly returned to the stage to introduced Bradley, calling him "The Original Black Swan" after his smooth, arm flapping dance move. Bradley walked out in his white suit and purple shirt to wild cheering, extending his arms with an emotional smile before singing "Heartaches & Pain." They followed with "No Time For Dreaming," a hard-driving funk tune that had much more energy than the recording. It broke down to only drums, trumpet, and saxophone under Bradley's passionate verse, with the bass and guitar slipping back in shortly before the reiteration of the chorus.
Bradley told the crowd, "I'm going to say one thing and I'm going to make it clear: Without you, there would be no me," and played the slow dance number "Lovin' You, Baby." The soulfully political "The World Is Going Up In Flames" elicited a lot of singing from the audience, and Bradley poured his heart into it. He spun around as he danced during "How Long," sweat flying, and walked off stage. The band played an instrumental that gave Bradley the time to change his wardrobe to dark, iridescent shirt and slacks with an ornate belt buckle.
Bradley displayed good control over his band, as a good soul singer should, with the drummer being the second most dominant member. During one song the sax player told Bradley he should "bring it down," and Bradley gave the okay. The drummer cracked on the snare drum before dropping in volume in unison with the band. This technique was used during an extended solo section later in the show, where Bradley introduced the instruments and what seemed to be their roles in making love. He said, "You want some of that funky horn?" and the trumpet player blasted out sharp quick bursts and smooth note bends. Next, he said the saxophone ("sexophone"?) "gonna make you say, ooh baby, stop it!" followed by a solo that carefully bent pitch and timing. "Now I know you all know what an organ is!" sparking a screaming organ solo. The simple, yet effective bass solo caused Bradley to pace around on stage, either yelling without the mic or just having his face melted. The guitarist let out a buttery blues solo with slides and bends. To be honest I'm not sure if their was a drum solo, but the drummer was on top of it the whole show, giving most the crowd the undeniable urge to dance by placing his accents in all the right places. It was a rare occasion to see a Chicago crowd actually moving.
Bradley entered the crowd and hugged as many people as he could before the final song "Why Is It So Hard?" which chronicles his life experiences in America. During the song he told the crowd that his grandmother told him God made many flowers, all with different colors and shapes, stating, "Don't look at the creed or color I am. Look at my heart." By the end of the song he had tears in his eyes, and left the stage with a thankful bow.
If you didn't enjoy this show, I question the size of your soul. Charles Bradley danced, sang, and screamed his ass off the entire show to earn the crowd's yells, whistles, claps, and foot stomps at the end, which seemed to be begging for an encore. Hopefully everyone realized that Bradley had given his all by the time the lights went up.
More pictures from the show below...