A joyful performance due to the quality of the music but also the professionalism of the show.
Melbourne band Saskwatch came onto the stage with as much fanfare as they did going off, very little. What promised to be a great show given their recent hits and rich soul sound was, quite frankly, a disappointment. The eight-piece band, comprising brass, guitars and drums seemed self-conscious and stunned, as if they’d just had some bad news. The lead singer, Nkechi Anele, dressed in a tight coloured skirt and bikini top, with her enthusiasm, gave her all in pulling the band together for the performance, but I couldn’t help but get the impression it was a one-woman show. The drummer and lead guitarist had an occasional lucid moment during the performance where they seemed aware of their instruments. Perhaps they’ve been touring too much lately, but apart from Anele, the band seemed barely conscious.
In sharp contrast were the magnificent Charles Bradley and his seven-piece band. Introduced by an effusive spruiker, a woolly bearded gent who turned out to be the keyboard player, Mr Charles Bradley was something of a revelation. Influenced heavily by James Brown in his youth, his performance and professionalism were pleasingly comparable. He had the full package, a tight, talented cohesive band, sequins on every article of clothing – some of which were removed with dramatic flair during his performance – hip and hand thrusts to rival the king himself, and wonderfully rich growling vocals. Bradley seemed perfectly at ease in this medium, his magnificently weathered face used to great effect to evoke the soul of his songs.
The band knew their stuff and were effortlessly stylish; they looked almost like an installation on the stage, a backdrop to the main man, the three guitarists – the epitome of cool – standing in formation. The band played it straight while Bradley made the crowd laugh and croon with his suggestive, seductive antics. It was a joyful performance due to the quality of the music but also the professionalism of the show. A master of the stage, he brought a smile to all and, at the very least, an involuntary hip wiggle to most.
Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5
Charles Bradley with Saskwatch
Zoo Twilights, Melbourne Zoo
Mixed events 24 January - 8 March