“You got me very emotional right now.” Charles Bradley blinks away tears as he looks out at the adoring masses. There’s a lot of love in the room tonight. The ‘Screaming Eagle Of Soul’ is a full-blooded performer who wears his humble heart on his white sequinned sleeve. He has no choice but to bare his red-raw soul. After a life on the New York streets and a string of dead-end jobs, Bradley was discovered by Daptone Records, aged 62, performing as James Brown tribute act Black Velvet. Five years later he is still intent on making up for lost time.
The sparkling costumes and swirling capes, the primal screaming and the mic-throwing showmanship may hark back to his previous life as the Godfather Of Soul, but Bradley has found his own unique voice over three critically acclaimed solo albums.
Seven-piece backing band, The Extraordinaires, are tight, sweaty and incredible tonight, weaving a gritty, soul-funk backdrop with brass and Hammond that echoes vintage era Stax and Atlantic. Opener Heartaches And Pain, a ballad about the murder of Bradley’s older brother Joseph, is drenched with an Otis Redding-like intensity.
The biggest cheer of the night is for The World (Is Going Up In Flames) from 2010 debut album No Time For Dreaming. Masterfully delivered, it’s an apocalyptic anthem for these troubled times. Lovin’ You Baby’s smouldering brilliance, again with a nod to Redding, sees Bradley stripping off his jacket and falling to his knees to frenzied cheers.
Bradley closes with Changes, title track of the new album, dedicated to his late mother. An astounding, poignant cover of Black Sabbath’s piano ballad, it wrings every ounce of soul out of the original.
It’s been a long time coming, but Bradley is now in his element and enjoying every minute of it.