In walked the man himself, Charles Bradley, decked in his personalized sequined red jacket with matching red-tipped leather shoes. He glided up to the mic and screamed. He went straight into the song "Heartaches and Pain," which tells the true story of his brother's murder, singing the powerful lyrics, "Life is full of sorrow/I'll tell you this, your brother is gone."
Tears and sweat streaming down Bradley's face -- you could literally feel his heartaches and pain still freshly shown.
There's no question that when this man sings, he sings like it's his last day to live. Yet this 64-year-old isn't going anywhere. His energetic vibrancy had him leaping, jumping, grinding, and doing the Harlem shuffle and the Mr. Roboto dance. He even attempted the signature James Brown split, yet, halfway down, Bradley realized that maybe a full split would mess up his black polyester pants.
By the end of his second song, "No Time for Dreaming," Bradley screamed to the crowd, "I love you! Without you, there's no me! It's all about love! LOVE!" The crowd screamed "I love you" back as a giant lovefest ensued. Recognizing the biography of Charles Bradley, from being a line cook at roadside diners while living in abandoned buildings to being discovered at the tender age of 53 by Daptone Record's cofounder Gabriel Roth, when Bradley pronounces his love for his fans, he truly means it. And how he shows his appreciation for his fans is simply by putting on the best show of his life, every single day.
Back to back to back, Bradley did not disappoint the crowd. From his soulful wails to his pitch-perfect screams, he embodies the spirit of a Southern Baptist pastor possessed by the spirit of the late great James Brown. Bradley cries when he sings -- literally. In singing "How Long," he wept while reciting the lyrics, "They looking for something, something to look up to/They looking for a change." By midchorus, Bradley dropped to his knees and crawled across the stage with the mic stand on his back, like its the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Now, it's not all pain and sorrow for this man. We all know how much love he has, and he is not ashamed to express his love with his smooth, soulful love songs. Before going into his last song "In You (I Found a Love)," he asked the crowd, "Can I get down deep?" Deep, in both an emotional and physical sense, Bradley did a PG-13-rated strip tease as he went in on this love ballad. Someone's gonna get pregnant tonight.
Let's also not forget, Bradley is one mean theremin player. Halfway into "This Love Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us," Bradley made his way to the funky wave box as he did the robot dance and went HAM with his magical hands.
Overall, Coachella may have had Radiohead as its Saturday headliner, but we had Charles muthafuckin' Bradley! For those who were lucky enough to have witnessed this living soul legend in action -- you are better for it. For those of you who missed out, YouTube will never do justice to what this man pours out during his live shows. We feel sorry for you.
The crowd: A motley mix of rockers, hillbillies, soul aficionados, and hippies, who probably haven't been to church in a long-ass time.
Overheard in the crowd: "This has got to be the best show I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot of shows in my life. Whoever missed this, they all suck." - MC Soarse Spoken
Personal bias: Shoutout to the band -- in particular, Tommy Brenneck, former guitarist of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, now serving double duty as lead guitarist for Bradley's Extraordinaires along with the Budos Band. We pray that he never gets a hand cramp.
Show pet peeve number one: The set changes were a bit drawn out, leaving most of the crowd anxious and annoyed. Another oddball effect: The "opening act," the Budos Band, ended up closing the night, which left the diehard Charles Bradley fans to stick out 45 minutes of Afrobeat-psychedelic jamband musical mayhem for a grand finale including the entire band, the Extraordinaires, plus Bradley himself.
Show pet peeve number two: Bradley did not play "Why Is It So Hard," which probably would've made everyone burst into tears anyways. We'll save the tissues for another time.
Set List for Charles Bradley:
"Heartaches and Pain"
"No Time for Dreaming"
"Lovin' You Baby"
"The World (Is Going Up in Flames)"
"Slip Away" (Clarence Carter cover)
- Intermission -
"Heart of Gold" (Neil Young cover)
"This Love Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us"
"I Believe in your Love"
"In You (I Found a Love)"