Charles Bradley is a living legend. His life is one of those rare success stories, a street kid that found his way out of hard times through sheer chance and perseverance. He spent his childhood in Brooklyn on the streets, wound up in Maine in a service job for 9 years in which he got his first gig, and eventually hitching his way around the whole United States before ending up back home in Brooklyn, middle-aged and poor but not broken. He performed a James Brown routine under the pseudonym “Black Velvet,” until, at the age of 51, he finally began to be able to make a life out of performing. Despite this, his life hit rock-bottom several years ago when his brother was shot and killed. Daptone Records discovered Charles Bradley only around a decade ago doing his James Brown routine. After a number of singles, Bradley released his debut full-length album earlier this year, titled No Time For Dreaming. This album is a revivalist funk and soul journey, reminiscent of ‘60’s era Otis Redding. This performance, at KEXP’s Bumbershoot Music Lounge should be a lesson in history as well as the power of human will and perseverance.
Bradley’s backing band — a five-piece complete with trumpet, saxophone, and organ in addition the the drums/bass/guitar — provided the soundscape, but Bradley may as well have had the whole stage to himself. Guttural wails and flamboyant dance moves colored the frontman’s performance, as he lurched to his knees while arcing his back in passionate pleas and fiery screams. Despite being upwards of 60 now, Bradley still owned every inch of the floor, between his wizened, powerfully graveled vocals and is all-encompassing arms. The crowd hooted and clapped every time Bradley ripped loose with vocal chords of a haunted god, and when the captivating performance came to a close, the audience got to their feet and roared for minutes beyond when the man himself left the stage. Stay tuned for live video from this tremendous performance, but until then, enjoy these pictures from one of the finest performers alive.