In the music spotlight: Charles Bradley
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Charles Bradley’s solo career was strong out the gate with his 2011 debut full-length album “No Time For Dreaming.” From some angles, it’s no wonder. His influences were among the all-time greats of rock and soul, including legendary artists like James Brown and Otis Redding. Bradley possessed the hard-won authenticity and the chops to do those names justice. Furthermore, he had a lifetime to hone his craft – the singing, songwriting and steps. That first solo album was released when Bradley was 61 years old.
Now 67, Bradley returns to a throng of devoted fans in Chicago with his third solo album entitled “Changes.” The genre’s heyday may reside in the previous century, but Bradley and his Daptone Records labelmates have launched a renaissance with essential soul music happening today. Comparisons to fan-favorite soul providers and Bradley’s own heroes remain valid, but make no mistake – Bradley is now a major influence himself, in the process of becoming an icon.
Still, it would be surprising to learn that Bradley sees it that way. His stage presence is the perfect blend of confidence and vulnerability, of pride and humility. He’ll sing about the need for both collective and inner strength necessary to change the world. He’s equally effective at the heart-on-sleeve, down-on-the-knees, “baby, please don’t go” tearjerker. Bradley’s concerts always include brief sermons on the need to care for one another and spread love. And the Extraordinaires, Bradley’s band of soulful upstarts, never fail in their mission to give their leader the platform to be his best. Combined, it’s inspiring and moving.
In addition to his original music, Bradley has created stirring soul music from surprising outside sources. His debut album included beautiful R&B interpretations of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” and Nirvana’s “Stay Away” that seemed written especially for him. This time, Bradley amplifies the desperate longing of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” with a gripping performance. Expect your own tears to fall at Space and Thalia Hall during the song.
* Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, 10 p.m. Apr. 27, SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, $35; ticketweb.com. And 7 p.m. Apr. 28, Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport, $22-$29 (17+, sold out); thaliahallchicago.com.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.