Elise Testone and company get on the good foot 

A review of the James Brown Dance Party on St. Pat's

James Brown Dance Party
The Pour House
March 17

The Pour House was packed with a sea of green people trying to get funked up at the James Brown Dance Party on St. Patrick's Day. There might have been some residual ear-ringing and soreness from dancing the next day, but it was worth the trade-off.

Local singer Elise Testone was the female James Brown and she wailed, screamed, danced, and sang from the depths of her soul. Her vocal prowess was on full display, and many of Charleston's best musicians were in the audience enjoying every minute.

Testone's band, Soul Power, is a super-group of versatile pros who got to shine in the shamrock lights as well. For an all-white funk band, they really brought it.

The music was blasting. With the four-man horn section, it was full tilt. Props to the sound guy for handing over earplugs when asked (it was much appreciated). Testone's parents had flown in from New Jersey to see her show, so she delicately prefaced "Sex Machine" saying, "Well, this is a little embarrassing, since my Mom's here ... but who likes it?" It bought a roar from the crowd.

The slow soul tune "Try Me" was a nice choice from the early James Brown catalogue. Testone more than did it justice. One true highlight of the night came when saxophonist Simon Harbing weaved of George Michael's "Careless Whispers" melody into "Superbad," which closed out the first lively set with a little mind-bending tease.

The second set came with some costume changes. The women in the band — Testone and singers Rachel Kate Gillon and Vikki Matsis — were more sparkly while keyboardist Gerald Gregory wore plugged-in Christmas lights wrapped around his legs. A shirtless Lee Barbour, decked out in his American flag pants, provided some eye candy as well as blistering electric guitar solos.

The sexy backup singers mostly dancing around the stage during the first set, but they really got to shine in the second. It was almost shocking to finally hear how beautiful their voices sounded together.

The band ended the night with "Living in America" while spraying silly string at the audience.

It wasn't your traditional St. Patrick's celebration, but people were spared the green beer and got to really boogie down to some James Brown classics. Testone offered proof positive that it isn't just a man's world.

Photos by Ben Walters.

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