Charles Bradley - Austin Sessions
When Gabriel Roth, co-founder of Daptone Records first saw Charles Bradley, he was performing as a James Brown impersonator in a band called Black Velvet. Roth set Bradley up with a band, had him write some lyrics (on the spot), and they cut some songs to vinyl. In 2011, almost ten years later, Bradley's debut album No Time For Dreaming was released. Fast forward to 2012 and his documentary, Soul of America, debuted in Austin at the SXSW film festival.
When I first saw him , it was on a video on my cousin's iPhone during SXSW this past March. After performing, he walked out into the crowd giving out hugs and handshakes. Bradley was covered in sweat, smiling ear to ear, and beaming with gratitude. Hearing about the show and its energy doesn't even come close to understanding the magnitude of the experience.
I was lucky enough to catch his show at Antones recently and there is no way I could write a description of the experience to do him justice but…here goes. His band, the Extraordinaires, warmed the crowd up with two songs before he even took the stage. If you closed your eyes you'd think you were in a small club in Detroit in the early sixties. Bradley was introduced, he hit the stage, and people lost their shit. He was at 100% the entire show. With moves he learned from studying James Brown, he crushed the crowd. It wasn't even fair. It was like going back in a Motown time machine. The audience had an idea of what to expect, but no amount of preparation would've been sufficient for what was happening.
What was it like? Imagine being back in the day when James Brown was in his prime. The show was what I can only imagine it was like. Look. Honestly I could go on and on without ever coming close to describing the vibe of what I saw that night. If I had to sum it up in a statement, it would be this: I felt like I was in on a secret meeting, experiencing history in the making. Even that statement, I feel, falls incredible short. Que sera, sera.
Last month Bradley released his second album Victim of Love and is currently on a world tour. He's on iTunes and Spotify so there are no excuses people. If you have listened to him previously or are just now discovering this spectacular gem, please let me know about your experience by commenting below.