In concert: Aloe Blacc at Rock & Roll Hotel
Attendees at Aloe Blacc's show at the Rock and Holl Hotel Monday ranged from college kids with large X's on their hands to baby boomers eagerly searching for a helping of nostalgia. The former L.A. underground rapper has crossed over into a new stage of his career as a confident and charismatic classic soul singer, a move aided by HBO using "I Need A Dollar" as the theme song for "How To Make It In America."
From the tight funk pocket of his band The Grand Scheme, to his butterfly collared retro ensemble, to his afro, Aloe Blacc could have revealed himself as Al Green's nephew, especially when he borrowed from Reverend Green's vocabulary of squeals and re-christened the venue The Church of Love & Happiness. Blacc then gave a roll call of the Church's esteemed clergy before
proceeding, citing Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder as his obvious muses.
The material on his recent album, "Good Things," doesn't break any new ground but the vintage textures are authentic, the arrangements well executed, and Blacc's vocals are maturing. Early in his career his falsetto was tentative and some singing experiments went awry. Melodies often strayed into unwelcome sharps and flats but now Blacc's vocal grasp is starting to catch up with his reach. It worked quite well on his reworking of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" into a burning blues ballad and on the soaring bridge of "Politician." And when Blacc made a rare reach into his back catalog with "I'm Beautiful," his vocals were noticeably stronger than the recorded version.
As an effective survey course for the style, the live Aloe Blacc experience likely moved younger folks in attendance to add Sly Stone and Bill Withers to their libraries. But to a knowledgeable soul connoisseur, Aloe's show may have crossed the line from soul revivalism to regurgitation. Most folks weren't thinking that cynically and were rewarded with a righteous good time.
| November 23, 2010; 2:20 PM ET
Categories: In concert | Tags: Aloe Blacc
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