UPDATED: September 23, 2017.
Charles, thank you for sharing your soul, quite literally, with us all these years. You went out like a beautiful flame.
It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Charles Bradley.Mr. Bradley was truly grateful for all the…
As far as appropriate day of the week planning goes, Charles Bradley did Tampa a kindness: he properly chose last Sunday as the day to take us to church. Only there were no hymns. No guilt. No holy water. It was the kind of service that included a couple of sequined wardrobe changes for the soul man. There was a black spangled vest and an exposed belly and peeking out bellybutton. His sermons had him going to great lengths to explain the differences between love and lust (hint: the former heavily outweighs the latter, as it involves his whole soul). We rocked and we swayed and we shouted our words of praise, too.
But if you were among those ticket-holding customers at his sweaty service, you already knew what you were in for. You expected to dance and to cheer when he did the same. You wanted to hear him cry and plead as much as the guy or bright smiling girl standing next to you. You expected, you wanted and it happened.
Bro. Bradley is an anomaly in the music world, able to get away with far more than few his age even try for anymore: as a man pushing 70, he’s singing and recording and touring instead of, well, retiring and kicking his boots up. Maybe that’s the draw. Maybe that’s what brings in the young as well as the old, the ones that want to move right along with the seven sweaty soul spinners (the very magnificent and aptly-named Extraordinaires) onstage, the ones always moving, playing, singing along.
Maybe that’s the draw. Because, well, Bradley’s not the greatest of singers, not by any stretch of the imagination. And, were he alive and spinning around in circles on his heels today, James Brown would be moving a whole lot faster than our Charles.
That aside, we still like to listen. Maybe we like to watch even more. We like to watch him do his version of The Robot and repeatedly lick his finger, like he’s far too hot for you to handle. And he’s got the pleading part down pat. He can beg while he sings and it ends up drawing you in, a delirious bee to his pot of honey. He’s got it all: the perpetually pained expression, the dramatic fall to the knees, the squinted-shut eyes.
Whatever it is, the spectacle he delivered Sunday gets paired with that “We don’t see much of that anymore” statement, and rightly so. If you were among the grayhairs who left before the encore, you were probably nostalgic. If you stayed until the end and were seeing him for the first time, you knew in the first few seconds you were witnessing something really pretty special, so much more than you’re used to seeing.
As for myself, I can’t say I was reborn as a result of the service. I did leave reinvigorated. I wanted his albums. I wanted to hear him scream some more. I wanted to sit down and talk with him for a day or two, pull more stories out of him that his songs had inspired. About how he’d run away at the age of 14 and slept in subway cars for two years. About performing as a James Brown impersonator named Black Velvet and more.
Bradley’s been around. He’s seen plenty. During his final mini-sermon, flanked by his ever-consistent band of stalwarts, he shared some of what he’s seen. It’s all too timely considering Ferguson and all that other ilk we wade through too often. He talked about how there was a white rose in the beginning, sure, and that there was a red one, too. But the other? It gets glossed over. And he doesn’t care for that so much. It’s a rose of an altogether different color.
“Don’t forget the black rose!” he screams from his spot on stage, and hopefully the rest of us absorb his words as much as we hear them. He continues, all his words coming out like one long cry. “We gotta change … all over the world!” And we do. As entertaining as he was, we honest-to-God do. Thank you, Charles Bradley.
The Woolly Bushmen preceded Bradley, managing to snag my vote for favorite band currently unleashing their brand of holy hell in the Orlando-Tampa area. They did it in their first song, too, when they dove back into the ‘60s and grabbed at the youngest version of Jerry Lee Lewis they could get their hands on. Banging on an organ and barking in a mic started happening and my head promptly split in two (in a good way … always in a good way).
Zulu Wave gave us some serious power and energy to react to, as is their gift. It’s been too long since I’d seen them—and they even admitted to not having played much together over the past couple months—but they’ve tightened in that stretch of time. Go watch, listen and see for yourself.
Lastly, simply because I couldn’t find another spot to slip any of this in, here’s more good stuff. One, did you know you can buy slow-cooked chicken and slaw tacos on Crowbar’s patio, two for a fiver? The bespectacled guy making them even squirts on an ample amount of Sriracha at no extra charge.
Two—and finally—driving the hour and change back to Orlando at midnight? It’s no thing. Especially if you have a sunroof. Especially if there’s a full moon threatening to give you a moon tan all the way back home.
Charles Bradley Live Review by Dainon Moody.
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