Review: Gregory Porter @ Burton Cummings Theatre
I passed on Gregory Porter at The Burt back in 2014 and lived to regret it. Everyone who went to that show said he was amazing. I vowed should he come back, I’d be there. Last night, I was there.
Danish guitarist Jakob Bro opened the show with a loop pedal and his trio. Their first song was soothing; it sounded like the Earth.
Within a couple of minutes, The Burt became too confined for the sounds they were creating and it opened up and my spirit soared with sea gulls, high above the building. I rose and fell with the birds to the Great Wall of China, dipping and darting this way and that, brushing the tips of the trees as we danced in the wind.
The music was FULL of atmosphere and I don’t know what type of Jazz this was, but I responded to it immediately. As the band played I wrote “I love this I love this I love this…” over and over in my notebook.
The song ended 20 minutes later and I was completely swept away and eager to continue the ride.
But after that first song, I was acutely aware that many audience members didn’t feel the same. The two women in front of me talked the whole time. As a matter of fact, quite a few people talked the whole time.
I review a lot of concerts and I’m quick to point out where I think musicians can improve to win over an audience. The trio didn’t address the audience at all, they didn’t introduce any songs, they barely even looked at us.
So if you’re an audience member who was looking for a “show”, there wasn’t one. There was just three guys standing in a semi-circle, playing off each other and loving every second of it. And I loved every second of it too. I didn’t need a show, it was nothing short of magical.
The pace picked up during the third song and I was running with a pack of gazelles in the Serengeti. It was inspiring and I whispered to the women in front of me to please stop talking so I could hear it.
The sound of the drums increased and my chest tightened. My heart grew too big for my body, it was hard to breathe…and people started leaving. First the two talkers in front of me, then a couple to the right of me…the guy in front of me yawned.
The fifth song was slow, but actually had some rhythm and I wrote “LOVE LOVE LOVE” all over my notebook. I wanted to yell out “CLOSE YOUR EYES! FEEL WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE!” But more people left.
Drummer, Joey Baron played a solo where he licked his finger and drew across his tom and the tom moaned for him. The crowd in the foyer were talking and laughing so loudly, you could barely hear it.
I didn’t understand the last song, but I was still completely captivated. It ended and I jumped up and gave them a standing ovation.
I was the only one. No one else stood. Just me…in that huge theatre.
I didn’t care. My God, that was celestial. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.
While Jakob’s band set my spirit on a transcendental journey, Gregory Porter brought me back to Earth and turned me to mush with his strong, smooth voice and amazing tone.
He delivered stories through his songs in such a compelling way, that you couldn’t help but listen. People listened, they hung off his every word.
“Take Me To The Alley” was full of melty goodness with a terrific saxophone solo. Unfortunately, I don’t know who played it because Gregory into’d the band while everyone was clapping, so it was hard to hear what he was saying. She played a lot of great solos though, which received enthusiastic applause from the audience.
I went to church during “Liquid Spirit”, clapping my hands and dancing in my seat. It was so much fun and the drum solo was great too. I think that was my favourite song of the night.
Jahmal Nichols’ bass solos were all funky but a bit unconventional, as he injected familiar riffs from other popular songs into his solos. The crowd seemed to really enjoy it.
Pianist, Chip Crawford was also playful with his solos, adding “Can’t Help Falling In Love” to “Musical Genocide” and a song from “Star Wars” to “Wolfcry”.
At the end, Gregory danced off stage while the band played and slowly, each member followed him. Jahmal and drummer Emanuel Harrold played a version of “Come Together” before Jahmal left Emanuel alone on stage to close the show with a fantastic drum solo.
The band came out again and performed “Hey Laura”.
I’m so glad I didn’t miss Gregory Porter this time. I love his old school vibe and his voice is incredibly special. I’d definitely see him again.
Why can’t Jazz Fest last all year?
TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here: www.facebook.com/TicketMOMs