Sunday, February 12, 2012

Little Barrie and Charles Bradley rock and wail

I doubt if most people who joined forces to sell out Lee's Palace on Saturday night knew much about opening act Little Barrie. I was in the same boat until recently.
Little Barrie

But the British trio definitely made new fans with its 35-minute set that largely showcased its fine King of the Waves album, which will be released in North America on Feb. 28 by Tummy Touch Records. Both the record and the performance opened with "Surf Hell," a surf-garage tune with an edge that's a great momentum-starter.

King of the Waves is Little Barrie's third album and, like 2005's We Are Little Barrie debut, it was co-produced by Orange Juice founder and Scottish solo artist Edwyn Collins ("A Girl Like You"). Collins also added backing vocals to "Money in Paper" on the record, which offers a no-nonsense, swaggering dose of rock-and-roll with dashes of psychedelia, blues and soul thrown in.

Little Barrie is much better known in Japan than in Canada, but frontman Barrie Cadogan has made a name for himself by playing guitar with Primal Scream and Paul Weller and is a talent to be reckoned with. Drummer Virgil Howe has his own share of non-Little Barrie notoriety, as he's the son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe.

Little Barrie will open shows in the midwestern and northeastern United States for soul belter Charles Bradley throughout most of this month. If you like what you see, pick up King of the Waves as well since there's no drop-off in entertainment value from the stage to the studio.
Charles Bradley

Bradley languished in obscurity for years, working as a cook in various U.S. cities and performing James Brown songs while playing occasional gigs under the name Black Velvet. But he was discovered by Daptone Records' Gabriel Roth in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Daptone's Dunham Records imprint released his No Time For Dreaming debut album a year ago.

The record gained critical acclaim and Bradley, now nearing his mid-sixties, has created a growing fan base with his sweat-soaked performances that reinforce his nickname of "The Screaming Eagle of Soul."

It's obvious that Brown, "The Godfather of Soul," had a huge impact on Bradley. He tries to emulate some of the late entertainer's moves, though falls far short in mastering them.

Bradley also likes flashy clothes, as he first appeared to a rousing ovation while wearing black pants, a black shirt and red-sequined jacket. The jacket came off early, and a costume change later in the set showed off a white jacket and black vest with no shirt. The jacket again was quickly removed to reveal a sweaty, shimmering belly.

Bradley certainly can belt out his material, and his delivery elicited frequent screams from the audience, which featured a higher ratio of women than most Lee's shows. In addition to the album repertoire, the soul and funk treatment was given to Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," which had many in the crowd singing along.

But I was at least as impressed with Bradley's seven-piece band -- guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardist, trumpeter, saxophone player and a young woman hiding away in the back clapping with a tambourine -- as I was with him. The group was tight, talented and melded well with the vocalist throughout the 55-minute set, which also included a couple of instrumentals to get things started.

Bradley was wearing a flashy gold jacket and no shirt when he came out for his encore number, and then he left while the band continued to extend things for a couple more minutes. Bradley emerged on his own at the microphone (as many of the 600 people in attendance were filing out) to offer a sincere, heartfelt thank-you to everyone.

Bradley hasn't had the easiest of lives, but he's making the most of his opportunities now. And hopefully the good times will continue to roll for him, since he deserves that.

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