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A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

July 28, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Charles Bradley leads dance party to end Timber! Fest

Charles Bradley performs at Timber! Outdoor Music Festival on Saturday. Photo by Owen R. Smith.

Charles Bradley performs at Timber! Outdoor Music Festival on Saturday. Photo by Owen R. Smith.

Charles Bradley hugged me. Wading into a sea of  ecstatic revelers Saturday night at Timber! Outdoor Music Festival as the final strains of “Why Is It So Hard” played, Bradley cast his arms open wide, pulled me into an enormous bear hug and whispered his sincerest thanks for coming to watch him play. I stood there, as more people pushed to get their moment with Bradley, stunned. I have experienced very few things in my 20 or so years of attending concerts that have given me real pause, but that indelible moment of gratitude from an artist who had just spent over an hour killing himself on stage is something I will carry with me long after I’ve stopped writing about music. It was exactly the sort of moment that organizer Kevin Sur had hoped for when he booked Bradley, whom he called the most gracious performer he’d ever seen. The day — warm, sunny and generally gorgeous — couldn’t have been further from the soggy, chilly start the festival had on Thursday. Local indie bands like Smokey Brights and Cumulus got things rolling during the day, but by the evening things took a different turn. If Friday night’s Beach Boys extravaganza with the Seattle Rock Orchestra had been one big singalong, Saturday became a massive dance party. Veteran hip-hop group The Physics started warming up the crowd’s dance moves, but it was funk purveyors Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme that got people front and center, shaking what their mamas gave them. With a name like that, what else could you expect? Gravy and his cohorts brought a phat, soulful sound as they worked through a nice mix of originals and classics like George Clinton’s “Testify,” which allowed Gravy to unleash his effortless range while the 11-piece Court Supreme expertly brought the funk. At just about that time, the familiar skunky odor of marijuana started wafting around the front of the stage. Legal weed had made its presence known, but due to the family atmosphere of the festival, tokers were discrete and respectful. Bradley’s set began at 8:30 sharp and after a short instrumental intro, the man himself (clad in the first of three outfits, this one a purple suit with his face printed on the back) appeared looking fit and happy at 65. He formed a heart with his hands and peered out into the audience through it, then spread his arms wide as he found his way to the microphone, as if to embrace the whole crowd. Finally, he started singing the first words to “Heartache and Pain” and it became clear that age and a hard life had not robbed Bradley of his soulful, raspy voice. He used to be a James Brown impersonator, and the similarities are there, but Bradley is his own man and his voice carries the character of a life lived. “You Put The Flame On It” was a devastating mid-tempo love song that could well have been a love letter from Bradley to his fans. It was the perfect number to showcase just how lethal his backing band, His Extraordinaires,  really is and had people looking for someone to hold tight. Love must have been in the air, because a young man proposed to his girlfriend a couple of songs later and Bradley invited the newly-engaged couple on stage to share a dance to “Lovin’ You, Baby,” a ballad from his 2011 album “No Time For Dreaming.” Every couple should be so lucky. Bradley shared a powerful message before he ended the show amid the exhausted, delirious crowd. “We all share the Red Rose in common. We all bleed red,” he said, before imploring the audience to treat each other well. After a weekend of sun, fun and great music, it was the right note to leave on. -Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails

Comments | More in Dance, Festivals, R & B/Hip-hop, Rock/Pop | Topics: Charles Bradley, Timber Festival

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