Aloe Blacc & The Grand Scheme
January 27, 2011
American soul singer Aloe Blacc’s first New Zealand concert was easily one of the most anticipated of the new year. Although he’s been making music for almost a decade, he seemed to go from relative obscurity to the hottest ticket in town in a matter of days during January. Much of the excitement has been generated by the release of his new album, Good Things, which features Aloe’s own thoughtful, yet funky compositions like Miss Fortune and I Need A Dollar alongside his surprising take on the Velvet Underground’s Femme Fatale. He seems set to become the latest in a long line of classic soul revivalists such as Terence Trent d”Arby, Macy Gray and Sharon Jones.
Blacc greeted the sold-out crowd at The Studio with the declaration, “We came to sing some soul music!”. He and his three-piece band got right into it with Hey Brother, from Good Things, followed by a brief singalong version of Al Green’s Love And Happiness. He had the audience in the palm of his hand and they continued singing along with the uplifting You Make Me Smile, also from Good Things.
From there, Blacc slowed things down with his slinky, bluesy version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, followed by Femme Fatale. “We are in the place to be tonight!” the dapper singer exclaimed and brought the mood up with the bouncy Green Lights and the title track from his new album.
Blacc could have easily pandered to the adoring crowd and simply given them music to shake their booties to, but, to his credit, he offered up some substance in the form of topical songs like Politician, Life So Hard and Miss Fortune. Of course, I Need A Dollar managed to make a statement while getting the crowd moving. The set closed with Loving You Is Killing Me. I would have thought I Need A Dollar would have been a more suitable closer, but, what the heck.
Blacc returned for an extended jam, introducing his bandmembers and then brought out his wife, Mexican/Australian singer/rapper Maya Jupiter to duet on one of her songs (he has produced her latest album). Jupiter appeared briefly earlier and has a winning stage presence, along with an excellent voice. The show closed with a version of the Mamas and Papas’ California Dreamin’. I would have preferred to hear his version of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come, but I guess the California-based singer was feeling homesick.
Overall it was an excellent night of classic soul. The show was briefly marred by some sound problems affecting Blacc’s vocals, and The Studio isn’t one of my favourite venues, but Aloe Black and his tight little band manages to overcome those minor obstacles and delivered a memorable set of funky, thoughtful soul music.
Listen to Aloe Blacc’s live performance of Billie Jean here: