Charles Bradley Live at the Paradise

Charles Bradley Live

Charles Bradley is a man of soul in more ways than one. Besides having spent decades as a James Brown impersonator–one of the founding fathers of funk–Charles has opened a new chapter in his life, this time using his own name. Bradley has only been seeing his own name on the marquee before he takes the stage each night since 2011. That’s when his debut solo album came out, soon to be followed by his latest hit album Victim of Love that came out earlier this year.

Though he’s been around for years, now is Bradley’s true time to shine. He’s been touring heavily in support of Victim of Love, and Boston was lucky enough to be home to the final date of Bradley’s North American tour.

Hours before the sold-out show, Bradley reflected on his humble beginnings and the journey he’s had over the years in an interview with us. “I’ve always loved people. I love to sing; I love being around music,” Bradley said. “What kept me going was my spirituality. That’s all I needed to never give up.”

Bradley said that after so many years impersonating James Brown, to finally be himself was an intimidating transition at first. “It was beautiful; it was hard and it was scary. I never thought I’d see that point. It was hard to bring my own words out,” Bradley said. “At first, there were so many emotions; I had to let them all out. Once I saw the fans and I saw the look in their eyes, I saw they loved me. I let it all out.”

In the past couple of years, Bradley has exploded onto the funk and soul scene with his original tracks. Bradley even credits his European audiences as a big push for the success he’s seen so quickly.

“I think Europe is the one that opened the door for me. You can feel the energy out there, it’s so warm, you can feel it from the people. In Europe, they throw their whole soul at you,” Bradley said.

Last night at the sold-out gig at the Paradise Rock Club, Boston certainly did the same. Bradley put on a phenomenal set that began with his Extraordinaires. The night began with an instrumental jam session, without Bradley on stage. A few minutes in one of his band members took the microphone to hype the crowd up bellowing, “Are you ready for Charles? Do ya’ll want some Charles?”

Once Bradley took the stage he immediately jumped into the hits including “Why Is It So Hard”, “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)”, “Strictly Reserved for You”, and three outfit changes! At one point, Charles disappeared for a few minutes and returned front-and-center stage in a white jumpsuit.

Bradley threw every ounce of energy and passion he can muster on stage and the crowd gave it right back to him. Over the years Bradley has made a habit out of immersing himself into the audience at the end of each set, arms open, tears rolling down his cheeks, and smile wide – last night was no exception.

“If I can’t give it good, I won’t give it to you at all. I want to help these people with the troubles they may be going through. It’s a feeling that I can’t express. That’s why I go into the crowd and that’s why I hug them,” Bradley said. “When I open up my eyes and I see their love, I see their hearts, I see their hurt – it’s amazing. And that’s what keeps me going.”

By Jeeyoon Kim

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