Soul code et Funky Clichés, Englishlike version. Lee Fields and Charles Bradley on stage.

Black Joe Lewis, Eli Paperboy Reed, Lee Fields, Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, The Dap Kings, Menahan Street band, Aloe Blacc, Cee Lo Green, Naomi Shelton, Mavis Staples, Jesse Dee, Amy Winehouse and her « genre » album (Six songs with the Dapkings), Budos band, Nicole Willis and the soul investigators… So many names are now associated with a living new soul, contemporary, far away of the multi-repackaged “golden age of the soul” compilations. The kind of cds there’s a maximum tunes on it, very great some, but a compact memory is not an open wide commitment to the future…

February the 21 st, soul was absolutely live and alive, it was sweating, breathing, and glitters were on fire and got fever, the horns and brasses were blown by men, not cheap samples, so it added a lot to the sweat and the heat of our pelvises moving and rocking, with our secret agreement even if we tried to keep cool as cool cats should be!

On the amazing “Grand Mix” Stage, built for music, appeared the ultra sharp killers of the Menahan Street band in the very unique tradition of soul, playing two titles and then announcing the singer. It’s not only a gig, it’s not a gala, it’s a review, and we felt like the Ikettes were backstage in a corner of our brain laughing with The Vandellas dancing in the streets on the opposite corner.

The drummer is absolutely elegant, nothing seems difficult, he keeps the groove and you know the pulse, not too late, but very late on the tempo, to have that so special back beat, Homer Seinwess, backed up with a very awesome bassplayer, Nick, completely cool and relaxed, sending heavy grooves with a very impressive skill, just like bass were easy. James Jamerson, THE Motown Bassist was probably laughing, up there, to see that white guy paying his due by every bassline he was playing, and he also sounded like the James Brown’s Bootsy Collins circa 1971 and the legendary Paris live LP. It’s a pulse, right in your heart and stomach, direct to your soul. Soul music is also a kind of instruments school, you can’t be a soulbrutha’ just because you’ve decided it yesterday, there’s a code it’s sharp, sexy, bouncing back in time, sensual, lascivious. The guitarist plays chords and arpeggios, no solo, no sustain, no effects, it’s clear, simple and luminous. When the atmosphere has been settled down then came Charles Bradley, first LP at last released when he’s 62… Instant flashes of all the poor slums and third class clubs he had to play and tried to wake up with his powerful deep soul voice all his life long… He was dressed in an amazing black and red suit, in the pure soul stylists tradition. He could have the James Brown’s cape… The way this man was enlightened was beautiful and very moving. His life and the very very late success could have driven him to a bitterness attitude or the survivor’s gimmick (Hey Bettye…) and he was only love and joy, peace and soul. He had the right to be in the glimpse of a twinkling ray of light approved by the Wattstax’ gods, up there, taking at last care of the late prodigal son. His voice and soul are not the revolution, they’re tradition, faith and concerned way of looking at the world, the soul becomes an expression of all the love feelings. The world is going up in flames sings Bradley and his pain is absolutely authentic and sincere. You can’t cheat with that kind of voice.

Charles thanks and thanks again, maybe too much, he loses sometimes his soul and the mic’, completely stunned by this sold out venue and a true listeners audience. We’re moved for him, he could be so bitter. It’s not James Brown, nobody said it, certainly not himself and we can feel he’s a bit paralyzed maybe wondering if someone will send him back in the Brooklyn’s clubs… to do the same JB’s set three times for 50 dollars and the meal. We speak of a man who spent most part of his childhood in the streets, he’s been cook for nine years… The only light in this life? James Brown at the Apollo in 1962… He sang in all the Brooklyn’s clubs, he found his own brother shot by his nephew. The way to forge a voice…

A minute later Lee Fields came on stage and the Menahan Street Band became suddenly et without a single change… The Expressions! Lee is a bit more mellow, feline and he feels more comfortable in a lover style, probably less traumatized by the lack of success. Daptone helped him to be back in the saddle, in soul and on stages. The Lil’JB is better on the subtile art of playing with the audience, like a sweet bullfighter to let the people be a part of the show to get the Soul with him. He knew the perfect timing to sing “Ladies”, dance floor stomper, which made believe to the usual drunk ones (they’re at every gig I go…) that they could dance like cheap 40 something clubbers, pathetic, out of the tempo in a “daddy is cool too, girl” mood. Hate the people when they speak while the music plays...

Lee moves and swings, and wraps everyone with his velvet voice, with that extra soul touch than nobody could deny. That awesome night all the soul clichés were true and, checked, stamped by Daptone. It was wonderful. Not the Harlem’s Apollo, not the mighty Wattstax and the call of Jesse Jackson when he asked to the crowd to repeat after him “I am somebody” and no more “something”. “What time is it?” asked Jesse « Nation time!» answered the crowd.

They’ve been excellent ambassadors of the soul nation and they rise up the soul flag very high, where colours are not necessary anymore. Charles Bradley will be back in those awesome dungarees of the album’s sleeve, knighted by Lee Fields. Still so moved, still so moving…When he sings “love”, it’s not the stupid rime to fit with “dove” found by a dull lyricist, it’s all the human kindness and 62 years passing by. It was time to close the night, that awesome soul review, time to leave the last golden twinkles of the horn sections, so sad to let us alone, trying to shine as long as they could. We were one nation under a groove. Yes. Believe me, Belief is all.

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