The Screaming Eagle slays Salt Lake City

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You’d think it was a steamy Saturday night at the Apollo Theater.

Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires blasted a hole through the fabric of time and took Pioneer Park back to the 1960s/70s on Thursday night, July 24, at the third installment of the Twilight Concert Series in Salt Lake City. From the look, feel and sound, it would seem that for Bradley, it just never stopped being the 70s.

The evening opened with the Budos Band, a nine-man psychedelic, afro-soul band from Staten Island. The repetitive jam band starts with a core melody, and expounds upon it, giving different instruments the chance to take the spotlight.

Bradley is known as the Screaming Eagle of Soul. His signature move, a slow motion, flapping of his arms to imitate an eagle, and his signature raspy, soulful scream were in almost every song. His music is funky R&B and manages to be both happy and sensual.

For the first half of Bradley’s set, he wore a blindingly white, gold-accented suit with a mustard-yellow shirt, the collar of which was popped, and the neck deeply v-shaped. His dance moves were straight out of a James Brown performance and brilliantly executed. He taught himself the mic move – wherein he tosses the mic stand away, calls it back with a tug of the mic cord and pulls it down with him as he turns and kneels away from the audience like he is begging – with a mop tied to a string.

The callback isn’t coincidence; from the late 90s, Charles Bradley performed as a James Brown impersonator under the moniker Black Velvet. He’s not imitating anymore. His genuine, heart-on-his-sleeve singing is meant to connect with each fan.

Even when Bradley isn’t dancing sensually or robotically, he is performing at an intensely high level. His charisma is intoxicating; at times, he moves slowly. He kneels, and slowly leans back until his back is flat on the stage, and then crawls toward the front of his stage and flashes his bedroom eyes – an impressive feat for anybody, not to mention a man comfortably into his 60s.

At one point, he left the stage and his nine-piece band carried the groovy momentum until he came back in a rhinestone-trimmed, blue suit. The band provided a stable and tight platform for Bradley to perform on. They played continuously through all of the banter.

“If I could reach on this stage right now and pull my heart and throw it to you, I would give it to you. I love you!” said Bradley, between songs. His raspy voice is musical even when he’s not singing.

He opened with “Heartaches and Pain,” a song about the death of his brother by a mugger, and played songs from both of his albums, Victim of Love (released in 2013), and No Time for Dreaming (his first, released in 2011). His music is infused with emotion – as much pain as love. His lyrics are drawn from the hard knock experiences in his life, from his mother abandoning him to homelessness and poverty.

This isn’t the first time the Screaming Eagle has been to Utah; last year he sold out the State Room and his fans have not forgotten him. This time, when the set ended, his fans screamed and begged for an encore, and he obliged (which made for the first encore of this season’s Twilight concert series).

He’s very loving of his fans; between songs he would yell, “I love youuuuuu,” and open his arms like a child saying they love you this much. The feeling is reciprocated in a major way. Salt Lake Citiers are suckers for Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires.

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