Aloe Blacc and the Grand Scheme
Oct. 12, 2011
Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa
If I were to tell you that the coolness of Aloe Blacc's delivery would've made Marvin Gaye do a double take you'd say I was delusional. Maybe so, but the sheer audacity of the previous statement is a testament to Blacc's skill set. His Bill Withers-like range, charismatic stage presence and a few dance moves that the Godfather of Soul would have been proud of pretty much sums up last night's performance.
Two shiny red keyboards in one corner, a trumpet and sax huddled in the other with a guitar and bass to round things out; the Grand Scheme got down with a funky, street-walking tune for the intro which broke into an instrumental of crowd pleaser "I Need a Dollar" as Blacc sauntered out onto the stage. Rocking a Pink Panther pink button up complete with tan vest and fedora, Blacc coolly tells the already dancing concertgoers, "You should know my name is Aloe Blacc."
With "Hey Brother" kicking off the set with wah wah pedal in full effect Blacc asks, "Who came to get down with the soul?" At the drop of a hat, the band effortlessly transitions to a mini medley mid-song and played a few classic bars from the James Brown, Gaye, and Reverend Al Green catalog. Cool, calm and collected.
As the band played the opening notes of "You Make me Smile" Blacc implored the swaying audience, "If you're standing next to someone who makes you smile give them a hug." Honest and heartfelt, Blacc charmed and had command of those in attendance. Shortly thereafter he brought his sister onto the stage and after a warm embrace the two harmonized on the remaining verses of the song. A cute moment and as the song wrapped up Blacc admits, "This is my favorite song."
Working through a slowed down, souled out version of The Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale," followed by an organ heavy reggae infused rendition of "Green Lights," bookended by the financial crisis inspired "Miss Fortune" there was no shortage of bumping and grinding on the dance floor.
Playing most everything off of 2010's Good Things, the highlight of the evening was Blacc's slow, slick and seductive cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Between the walking bass, the light bluesy drumming and Blacc's Donny Hathaway-like cadence the group certainly gave the classic song it's proper due.
Aloe Blacc and the Grand Scheme have this silky smoothness about them that likely would have landed them on a bill sandwiched between the likes of The Four Tops and Curtis Mayfield had they arrived in the right decade. That said, I am kinda glad they didn't.
Random Notebook Dump: It helps when you have a charged camera battery when you go out to photograph a show.
Critic's Bias: Until about a week ago the only thing I knew about Aloe Blacc was that his "I Need a Dollar" track opened one of my shows of the moment: How to Make it In America. I gotta say, I became a fast fan.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Who is this big white bitch wearing three-inch heels? MOVE!"
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