The Budos Band, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires
The Pour House
After the final notes of Charles Bradley singing his soul version of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," the sweat-drenched singer exclaimed, "Tell me how to give you more love ... Tell me how, and I'll give it to you!" Backed by His Extraordinaires, Bradley emulated the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, gyrating around a theremin, wearing a low-cut jumpsuit, and turning his body's sexualized freak-out into a voice. The crowd accepted, hands in the air, waving and screaming for more. The performance was energizing and electric. As an opening act, it was a stirring way to start a Wednesday night at the Pour House.
Bradley, a.k.a. the Screamin' Eagle of Soul, is a consummate performer; his James Brown affectations are spot-on, down to the high-pitched yells, microphone stand tricks, gyrations, and sweat-drenched fever. But perhaps they are a bit too exact, too close to the man himself. I wasn't surprised to learn that as a child Bradley mimicked Brown's moves, and later in life performed his songs. His band was good. All the elements were there, but they seemed to lack the familiarity and ease a soul band should have. That said, he was entertaining and lively, piquing my interest for the albums.
Or, maybe I was just too hyped up for the Budos Band. The 10-piece ensemble started off slowly with the meandering "Vertigo," featuring galloping rhythms and soaring horns moving into an Afro-beat shuffle. An extended organ solo and minor key melodies rolled throughout.
The group effortlessly worked through the 16-song set with the tightness of a well-rehearsed act and the looseness of a band well acquainted with each other and the songs. The five-piece rhythm section practically marched along in perfect sync, nearly forcing the crowd to sway and dance in hypnotic approval. I was under their Staten Island spell. The bass player pointed his bass directly at specific audience members, as if to say the warm, overwhelming rumble was just for them in that moment.
Don't get me wrong, the Budos Band is not a jam band. Their solos are tightly regulated, and the song lengths on their most recent album, III, average three minutes. Jam fans responded to the groove and bongos. Jazz fans responded to the musicality and tight horn arrangements. Metal and rock fans responded to the deep rumble and rhythm. Hipsters responded to the retro and Afro-inspired music. To put it simply, Budos Band makes you feel cool.
"It's Friday!" the wayfarer-wearing trumpet player yelled between songs. "With Budos, it's always Friday! You don't have work tomorrow!" He extolled us to act accordingly, despite the fact that this show took place on a Wednesday night. Later, the wink turned to a nod, adding "Wednesdays suck. It's Friday, motherfuckers!" Then they launched into the cowbell-infused beat of "Golden Dunes," a marching mid-tempo tribute to North Africa with lingering organ and sharp horns.
The final song of the set, "Unbroken, Unshaven," reflected the band perfectly. Ten mostly long-haired and scruffy New Yorkers finished without a hint of exhaustion. There was a bit of chaos, with the trumpet player and auxiliary rhythm players confused about when to walk off-stage. The drummer returned to the empty stage to tell us we had to demand an encore with a soul-style call and response. "Budos! Budos! Budos!" chants melded together in a mess of aural excitement and frenzy as the band returned. After the encore, the lights came up, and the crowd stared at each other, not wanting to leave.