BADBADNOTGOOD // Charles Bradley at Roseland Theater, 4/14/15
Written by DJ RePete on April 20, 2015
It’s no easy feat to cover hugely popular tracks like Gang Starr’s “Mass Appeal” and Slum Village’s “Fall in Love”. BADBADNOTGOOD threw themselves into the limelight with these successfully tasteful covers, and later with their cover of “Lemonade” by Gucci Mane. These guys have quite a reputation for presenting jazz in a more modern context and I was psyched to catch them.
With the first couple of songs, I was afraid BADBADNOTGOOD was living up to their namesake. The kick drum was so loud it was drowning out everything else. Aside from being the loudest on stage, the drummer was also rushing which squashed any pocket feel the band is known for, especially on their most recent album “Sour Soul”. I was left wondering when I’d start hearing the band that backs rappers like Tyler, the Creator.
Things started to fall into place when a tenor player joined the group for a cover of Flying Lotus’ “Puddy Boy Strut”. The band started to groove a lot more and the sound guy apparently woke up. Once the levels were fixed and the drummer relaxed, the subtle, creative BADBADNOTGOOD I was used to showed up. The group started shaping the music with different harmonies and rhythms, the volume waining and waxing with the intensity of the songs. They closed the set with a crushing new untitled song. These guys took a couple songs to get their stuff together, but once they did it was tight.
The Charles Bradley set absolutely blew me away. From the first downbeat, the group was way in the pocket playing some seriously funky stuff. “The Extraordinaries” included a rhythm section with an organ player along with a trumpet and tenor sax. As the rest of the band laid down a groove, one of the horn players introduced the self-proclaimed “Black Rose of Soul” and Bradley walked out with arms spread, donning a lustrous silver shirt. The place went nuts.
Every note Bradley sang was dripping with soul. It was easy to hear how his years as a James Brown impersonator had influenced his sound, but Charles made the music timeless and uniquely his own. It’s a rare treat to witness a band as tight-knit as Charles Bradley’s, who he describes as his sons. The group alternated between high energy grooves complete with solos and tender ballads where Bradley really got to shine. One song flowed into the next, with professional arrangements from obviously well-seasoned musicians.
Charles took plenty of opportunities to talk to the audience, thanking them and letting them know he was there only because of their love. He opened up about his rough past; drifting around with no home for many of his teenage years and finally reuniting with his mother in the mid 90’s. You couldn’t have found one person that wasn’t totally moved by this guy’s raw sincerity. Watching him spill his guts onstage, working the mic stand and getting in some downright sensual dance moves, I knew I was witnessing somebody truly legendary. If James Brown is the hardest working man in show business, Charles Bradley’s gotta be close behind.