Recently listening to Charles’ albums it had gotten me more and more excited to see him live, even to the point where on the night of the gig I would be comparing my expectations to that of a show that would be kind of Otis Redding meets James Brown, and truth be told it would not be far off the mark.
What the evening oozed of in spades was funk and soul. I mean the 6 piece band alone gave you that back before you even added in a leather clad ex James Brown impersonator.
The couple of opening instrumental tracks from the band, before Charles ventured out from behind the curtains, was a perfect start to get the crowd into the mood (Funky Mule followed by Summer in the City).
It is fair to say that whilst the show was really good it was not without a couple of flat points. The first of these was reasonably early in the show when one of Charles’ performance show pieces (to throw the mic and mic stand away, holding onto the cord and pull it back to you, catching it on its return) didn't quite go off without a hitch, and it was sent tumbling to the floor. The crowd was seemed to be a little caught off guard and where they may have thought that this would be a flawless show, they were brought back to music performance reality and seemed to wonder if Charles’ best years had already passed him by. This thought would be dispelled over the next 2 hours and all would be forgiven and forgotten.
When I mapped out my wish list I had hoped that Charles and the band would not only cover all of his most well known hits but they may well throw in a couple of covers to boot and I would not be disappointed. Not only was the bands intro music a couple of covers, but there was also Heart of Gold by Neil Young and Funky Good Time for the ‘let’s meet the band section’. The move between his own music and the James Brown cover was so seamless, at times you could easily mistake one for the other.
So he is a soul singer, James Brown impersonator you say, well I wonder what he would wear on stage? Well as your guess might be right it was a bright red rhinestone studded leather suit. And it fit the mark perfectly. There was at least one costume change where Charles got out on his red suit and into a more black attire, still adorned with sequins but not quite as ostentatious. As Charles emerged onto the stage for the second time in the evening it was the song I wanted to hear the most out of everything. "Where do we go from here" and whilst I had wanted this to be the opening track of the night it was still pretty good to see it open the second stanza of the evening’s festivities. And when the horns kicked in it all just felt right. Add in a couple of very well executed microphone catches and the Charles was really hitting his straps. At one point I think he actually executed a pretty good version of the splits. Well, at least for a man well into his mid sixties and who would probably put 80 % of the men in the building to shame.
Another highlight for the evening would be that of the Hype man Mike D who always adorned himself in his jacket, then picked up his glass and then addressed the crowd in an excellent fashion, getting them ready for the performance of “the original Black Rose”.
The encore was only two songs long but the song everyone was there to hear was everything and more than most would have expected. The band stripped back the performance of "Victim of Love" and really left most of it to Charles and his passion energy and voice, all of which is a one of a kind.
The crowd could have been more focused on the band and this was a tad bit distracting from time to time but when you have been to as many gigs as we have I guess you tend to zone out on this and enjoy the evening for what it means to you.
And as the 20 song set came to an end I noticed I was smiling from ear to ear and was not only really into this funk and soul show, but I also was loving being at Paradiso watching a great performer surrounded by a great band.
I love it Charles, do it again Charles before you are too old to remember all the members of your current band.