When Charles Bradley first came to Denmark in 2011, he was an unfamiliar fixture in the world music circuit. When he came to Lille Vega last year, he was still not that well known worldwide, yet alone in Denmark. But after last night’s show at the same venue, however, I have a sneaking suspicion that we have not seen the last of Charles Bradley, and that his best may still be yet to come.
Starting out as ‘Black Velvet,’ Bradley performed James Brown impersonations before eventually landing a contract with Daptone records a few years ago at the tender age of 62. His songs chart his struggle and call for change in society, a veritable critique of the fallacy of the American dream and of the greed and corruption with which society is awash today. Bradley’s show last night was by far the best concert I have ever been to, a bewilderingly beautiful performance that saw him shed tears of elation and sorrow alike.
The backup band of the evening, the seven-piece Extraordinaires, stepped on stage before the main man himself, announcing their presence with an intense instrumental performance. Bradley took to the stage shortly afterwards, clad in clothes he’d made himself and resembling James Brown down to a T.
‘The World (Is Going up in Flames)’, off his debut album No Time for Dreaming set the pace, slowly working up a crowd that lived up to the cliché of being an audience with a frightful tendency to be stagnant and noncommittal. This stereotype was thankfully broken down as things proceeded though, the result being epic hands-in-the air moments and genuine interaction from the crowd. With Charles giving it his all, performing with a dedication that saw him sweat profusely on the warm stage, an early instrumental interlude early saw him waltz off stage to take a breather before coming back on to woo the crowd with tracks such as ‘No Time For Dreaming’ and the sentimental ‘Loving You.’
With the venue in the palm of his hands, Bradley and co rounded off with an epic performance of the newer track ‘Confusion’, showcasing a series of dance moves that few people in their twenties, let alone a veteran, can muster. A befitting encore saw him change outfits and come back on stage dressed in a fiery red suit to perform the powerful ‘Victim of love’ and ‘Why is it so Hard?’, both off his 2013 album,Victim of Love, which documents the travails and struggles of a man who has taken a long and weary walk to freedom.