If you didn’t know better, you might have thought Charles Bradley was a soul pioneer, still belting out decade-old classics for an audience reliving the music of their childhood. The reactions from the crowd after every number played by Bradley and his Extraordinaires during their closing set on the River Stage Saturday evening pointed to such a notion being true. Heck, even Bradley’s age would make that seem like the logical interpretation. He’s 67 years old.
These assumptions would be incorrect. Bradley broke out just six years ago when he was finally discovered. After experiencing his live product for the first time, I can say with confidence that we were robbed of many years of heart-on-his-sleeve performances that would have been rivaled by few. Because that’s what Bradley and his band gave us in Wiggins Park Saturday. His age did not factor into his performance, except for the fact that he’s had more years than most to perfect his dance moves. I’d have a lot of fans too if I could pelvic thrust and do the robot like he does. But all jokes aside, Bradley and his Extraordinaires brought wicked amounts passion to each breath, whether that was from his howling, soulful vocals or the blasting brass courtesy of the band.
It began with a theatrical introduction from Bradley’s organist. Then the Screaming Eagle of Soul emerged from backstage, clad in a scarlet suit, complete with black shirt stitched with roses. His belt buckle resembled a shiny skull. In short, Bradley’s swag was on lock. And as they say, when you look good, you play good.
The set then entailed nine tracks coming from all three of his studio albums, including 2016’s Changes. After leaving midway through for a quick wardrobe change (don’t worry, the new black suit was even shinier) Bradley came back and kept the upbeat mood alive. He mastered a nifty move where he’d throw his mic stand and then yank it back with the wire like a yo-yo. It was fun to watch and even more of a blast to listen to.
Bradley’s love seemed boundless; to end the day, after sharing the story of how hard it was for him to say goodbye to his late mother, and urging us all to make amends to any broken parental relationships, he tossed red roses into the crowd — a lovely parting gift, but not the treasure of the night. That title belonged to Bradley himself.
Changes for the World
Nobody But You
Where Do We Go From Here
Ain’t It A Sin
Fool For You
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