Live Music - Aloe Blacc- Concorde Brighton 02/05/11
Whilst the world waits for D'angelo to put down the crack pipe and pick up the Fender the rest of the soul crowd has moved on. This year the likes of John Legend, Raphael Saadiq and Cee-Lo have well and truly taken over the neo-soul empire with distinctively retro sounding albums.
Aloe Blacc is another young pretender to the throne making old school music that seems to airbrush the 80's from musical history. It's not that the only thing that is airbrushed. Blacc's real name is Egbert Dawkins (what cruel parents)and before a redundancy enduced leap into the fickle music industry he earned his corn as a consultant at Ernst and Young. Rock 'n indeed Roll.
His second album Good Things owes a musical debt to Soul's golden age with its nods to Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder in the use of funky, brass laden grooves to deliver it's social messages and feel-good vibes. Whilst not quite in the same league as a What's Going On or a Talking Book, Good Things at least shows Blacc is honouring the tradition of soul music by highlighting social injustice rather than Louis Vuitton.
Tonight at the Concorde the emphasis is more on entertainment rather then introspection. Dressed in a waitcoast and Trilby Blacc sends the band out first to set up a musical intro that contains snippets of James Brown, Al Green and Stevie Wonder which the versatile Blacc apes with either a JB slide or a Stevie waggle of the head.
Hey Brother's blaxsploitation groove get us off to a good start and highlight a band who at the end of the tour are as tight as a snare drum. You Make Me Smile then sets the tone for the evening with plenty of audience participation encouraged when the band breaks it down.
Femme Fatale I have discovered is Velvet Underground cover and a rather unusual choice for a soul artist. It slows down an upbeat start. Green Light is about as chart friendly as you can get and you can tell Blacc was channelling Bill Wither's Lovely Day when he wrote it.
Whether it is 1973 or 2011 politicians have always been duplicitous snake oil salesmen so the gritty Gil Scott Heron influenced track Poltician is as relevant now as it would have been back in the day.
Making promises you can't keep
They're hungry wolves dressed like sheep
Shake our hands
Stab our backs
Don't know why you do us like that
It is about now that Blacc splits the audience in the middle for a Soul Train dance off. Great idea but all he succeeds in doing is giving those at the back and excuse to steam through the gap to get to the front. Opportunistic bastards.
I Need a Dollar of course is the "big hit". It has been labelled as an anthem for the credit crunch generation but it could have been written in the Great Depression as its message about the problems of capitalism are timeless. It's the standout track and it gets a rapturous welcome and a reggaefied break down. Fortunately it doesn't descend into a Police pastiche.
For a finale support act Maya Jupiter returns to share vocal duties on Rico the latin influenced jam that ventures into Ricky Martin territory. With no encore it turns out to be a bit of an anti climax.
Minor gripes aside Blacc puts on a slick, enjoyable show and its great to see soul music moving back into this more organic direction.
If anything it is reminder that good things can come from bad times.