By Grace Burns:
When one of the Extraordinaires introduced Charles Bradley as the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” this Sunday afternoon at Boston Calling music festival, it was no surprise that those who weren’t familiar with his work were a bit skeptical of the title. With such excellent performers such as Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin falling into the genre as well, was Bradley really able to live up to the expectations? But within minutes of his set, Bradley proved that the title is well deserved and that at least at Boston Calling, he truly is the Screaming Eagle of Soul.
One of the things that makes soul so beautiful is how exposed artists make themselves; they’re notorious for not only wearing their heart on their sleeves while they perform, but also going the extra mile and sporting it in front of thousands at a time. Charles Bradley is absolutely no exception to this cardinal rule of soul. With every melody, Bradley time and time again exposed his heart to the audience as if it were a freebie in one of the merchandise tents. This had audiences eating out of the palm of his hand. His gratefulness for this didn’t go unnoticed either, with Bradley taking a moment at the end of every song to take a hand to his chest or blow a kiss, declaring his love for Boston and the crowd.
His Extraordinares, on the other hand, proved that they truly were extraordinary. The seven-piece ensemble worked so cohesively it was as though they were all sharing the same brain. On the contrary, each member also proved that they, too, were feeling as deeply as frontman Bradley, never once forgetting about the sympathy needed to make their performance something truly special. It’s not unusual for the rest of the band, aside from the frontman, to be forgotten or treated as lesser. But during the moments in which Bradley exited the stage, the band was able to show how truly gifted they all are.
The entire performance is also one that transformed Government Center into a smoky blues lounge. Not only were audiences brought back to the times when the twelve-bar blues dominated the mainstream music scene, but some may have also been reminded of the weekend closer for the September 2015 Boston Calling festival, in which Alabama Shakes took Boston home with a similarly soulful set.
After such a great set at Boston Calling, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires showed that even after over fifty years in the music industry, the Screaming Eagle still knows how to play his audience like a fiddle and make them feel things they weren’t even sure they were feeling.