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Story and photos by Gypsy DaveyWith the house lights dimmed, Charles Bradley's Extraordinaires sauntered into position and proceeded to lay down a super funk groove. Cleansing the palette from the rather incongruous opener while setting the table for the main course to come. To a barrage of beats analogous to early Meters' efforts, Bradley breezed in with arms outstretched as if trying to wrap them around us all. To a slower time signature, he brought together his open arms 'til his hands clenched the microphone tightly and showered us with Heartache and Pain. An interesting opener since it stands as the chosen crescendo to his sole 2011 Daptone Records release, No Time for Dreaming. Through its swirling gusts of melancholy, Bradley retells his story of hardship and loss with such acute detail and upfront sincerity that its billowing despair transcends the singular, connecting us on a level that's universal.
Charles Bradley is the genuine article, embodying a unique blend of soul, with James Brown stage antics and thick Otis Redding desperation behind each passionate vocal inflection. At 63 years of age, Bradley and His Extraordinaires put forth a flavorful performance as powerful as the infamous Apollo Theater recording by the late Brown himself in '63. Equipped with the full arsenal of hip gyrations, body pops and mic tricks, Bradley owned the Hall and captivated those present with his raw emotion. The show consisted of material primarily featured on Bradley's lone release NTFD, with the exception of a Neil Young cover, "Heart of Gold."
There is coziness present behind his gloom, warmness behind each squall of woeful torment that seems to resonate with people. The power of Bradley's message comes from his frankness in delivery, making it familiar to us. Even though our tribulations are relative to our own experiences, Bradley is able to tap into a vein towards a higher humanity with a directness that makes him more accessible. In turn, we all triumph over his past dejections and are able to rejoice in the hope that in the end dreams really do come true.
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