Sunday, May 5, 2013 • Doors 7pm • Show 8pm • $15 Advance • $17 Day of Show • All Ages
That’s his whole persona in a single tiny scene: Charles Bradley, victim of love. Other artists appreciate their audiences, just as many are grateful for them, but few artists love their fans as much and as sincerely as Charles Bradley. By now, his remarkable, against-all-odds rise has been well-documented – how he transcended a bleak life on the streets and struggled through a series of ill-fitting jobs – most famously as a James Brown impersonator at Brooklyn clubs – before finally being discovered by Daptone’s Gabe Roth. The year following the release of his debut, No Time For Dreaming, was one triumph after another: a stunning performance at South By Southwest that earned unanimous raves; similarly-gripping appearances at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Newport Folk Festival and Outside Lands (to name just a few); and spots on Year-End Best Lists from Rolling Stone, MOJO, GQ, Paste and more. Victim of Love, Bradley’s second record, is a continuation of that story, moving past the ‘heartache and pain’ and closer to the promise of hope.
Drop into any moment of Victim of Love at random and that message is immediately apparent. Where the last record opened with the apocalyptic “The World (is Going Up in Flames), Victim begins “Strictly Reserved For You,” a track that sees Bradley grabbing his girl, jumping in a car and hitting the highway for a romantic getaway. In “You Put The Flame on It,” Bradley sings “My life is gold – you put the flame on it,” backed by a horn chart that sounds like it was lifted from a lost Four Tops single. And on “Victim of Love,” the song that gives the album its name, Bradley sings, “I woke up this morning, I felt your love beside me,” over the kind of gentle acoustic guitar that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Neil Young album.
Which brings up another point: with the new subject matter comes a broader musical scope. Where Dreaming hewed close to the rough-and-ready R&B sound Daptone has become known for, Victim is stylistically more restless, edging closer into the kind of psychedelic soul The Temptations explored in the early ’70s. “I’ve been calling it ‘New Direction Daptone,’” enthuses Brenneck. “People are not going to expect this. There’s a lot of psych influences on this record, a lot of fuzz guitar. I’m pushing the band & the arrangements further out, which in turns has to make Charles go further out.”
That new direction is most apparent in “Confusion.” Opening with the kind of echo-drenched vocal and charging rhythmic cadence that characterized Curtis Mayfield’s “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go,” Bradley calls down fire on crooked businessmen and duplicitous leaders. “That song is about a lot of those big politicians who think they can make everybody’s decisions for them,” says Bradley. “The higher class think they can make up the rules for us. But a lot of those big wigs have never really been down to the harsh life. They don’t know how it feels. So I’m trying to talk to people who are going through those hardships.” As is typical of Bradley, the song comes off not as a roaring jeremiad, but as a deeply-felt note of sympathy for the oppressed and beaten-down.
“It’s all about what you give.” Bradley says, leaning hard into that last word. “I don’t care how great a singer you are. I don’t care how much talent you have. If you give, and if the people feel what you’re giving, you’re blessed.”
“All I’ve been trying to show the world is the love I have to give,” says Bradley. “I hope that when you look at me, you’re gonna see a person who walks this planet in a way that, when the Lord calls him home, He says, ‘Well done, servant.’ If God can see that I’ve loved all as He’s loved us – that’s all I can do. And that’s what I fight to do.”