LIVE REVIEW: Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires at the Kentish Town Forum
PUBLISHED: 17:21 31 March 2016 | UPDATED: 18:05 05 April 2016
Soul singer Charles Bradley’s path to fame was far from conventional.
For years he could be found in small New York bars performing as a James Brown impersonator.
If his talent in those years could have propelled him further, his priority wasn’t on the chasing the limelight, but caring for his elderly mother.
But as he emotionally told a packed audience at the Kentish Town Forum on Wednesday, his mother told him on her death bed to follow his dream.
Occasionally the good guys do triumph in the music business, and Bradley released his debut album “No Time For Dreaming” at the age of 62.
Five years later and his career has snowballed, with third LP “Changes” set to be released days after his appearance in London.
Bradley’s rise to fame was chronicled in 2012 documentary “The Soul of America”, which showed his tough upbringing, days of homelessness and heartbreak after the murder of his brother.
It was fitting that the venue should be selected for Bradley’s performance owing to structural damage at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
In 2005, The Godfather of Soul played one of his last UK shows before his death the following year.
Back then, Brown delivered a mesmerising performance that still ranks as the best concert I’ve been to.
As he took to the stage, the years spent studying his idol were obvious – over the course of his 90 minute set Bradley screamed, he danced, he dropped to his knees, and he channelled every ounce of strength to fill the venue with his huge voice.
But to simply compare the 67-year-old to James Brown is to do him an injustice.
His records have been acclaimed across the globe, and his following is testament to an artist who may have arrived late at the party but has more than enough talent to hold his own against younger performers.
An early version of “How Long” – in my view one of the finest soul records released in the last decade – gave Bradley a chance to show off his stunning vocal range.
Bradley wears his heart on his sleeve, and is brilliantly expressive as he performs.
He talked about his mother’s death, urging audience members to honour their parents.
Over his 90 minute set, Bradley delivered a masterclass in performing soul, brilliantly energetic and yet haunting at moments.
Highlights included a stunning version of “You Put The Flame On It” from his acclaimed “Victim of Love” LP.
Having been thrust into the limelight later in life, Bradley shows no sign of slowing time, and the future is looking bright for this relative newcomer.
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