Show Review: Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaires at Georgia Theatre – 4/19

Photo by Hannah Cook

Photo by Hannah Cook

The performance in Athens at the Georgia Theatre probably wasn’t any different from the hundreds of other shows Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires have played. I’ve seen them before and it always starts off the same: The Extraordinaires open up, swaying back and forth, tooting their horns and strumming their guitars in fine Motown fashion. After about five minutes, the keyboardist steps out from behind his keyboard and up to the microphone, forms a few strewed sentences about Athens, Ga and the opening band (who, in this case, was Paul & the Tall Trees, backed my the Menahan Street Band/The Extraordinaires), and only then can the fun begin.

He holds his drink in the air and begs the question, “ladies and gentlemen! Are you ready to see the one and only Mr. Charles Bradley?!” The crowd yells, because of course it’s ready. But the guy at the microphone isn’t satisfied until after a few more go-rounds of that. The anticipation is the death of us. We scream and sweat until we see that first flash of glitter on Charles Bradley’s vest pop up through the dark. It’s all very glamorous, but so much fun.

DSC_0020And while every show may start and end the same, Bradley has a way of making each of them so special, like he knows the people watching him individually. He does that because his appreciation for us is as earnest as our appreciation for him. It’s a mutual understanding that both of us are going to do our very best to make the other happy. He sings and we dance and if our hearts aren’t in it, then we might as well leave.

Touring off their second release, (out on Daptone Records), Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires are more romantic and confident this time around, although not necessarily more confident in romance. Still, the James Brown of our time knows how to work it. Don’t let his age full you; he can almost do the splits in bell-bottoms and he even pulls out the robot from time to time.

From the more upbeat songs like “Ain’t No Time for Dreaming” to the downtrodden “Why is it so Hard (To Make it in America),” Bradley showed us everything he had.  Some moments were so intense that I could mistake Bradley’s sweat with real tears; others were so exciting that everyone was damn near a Boogie Monster.

Bradley’s story is an admirable one, chalk full of struggle, loss, doubt and the eventual rebirth. We’ve seen it in the movies and heard it from the biggest stars, but no such stories seem quite as authentic as his. Something about him radiates humbleness, despite his sudden fame. He carries his hardships with him, allowing them to swallow him up so that he may reflect them in their truest form. He is happy. He is optimistic. He is kind and wise and, by golly, is he grateful. He is the Screaming Eagle of Soul. He is Mr. Charles. Bradley.