Photos: Charles Bradley at the Apollo
Greg Aiello documents soul singer making his historic venue debut
The 64-year-old soul singer Charles Bradley, a former James Brown tribute act who has in recent years become a totem of the traditional-R&B revival associated with Brooklyn’s Daptone Records label, gave a two-hour tour de force performance at New York’s Apollo Theater last Thursday.
Devotees of classic R&B and funk who were around to hear that music unfold in the ’60s and ’70s might have experienced déjà vu. Bradley’s backing players, including his Extraordinaires and members of the Menahan Street Band, dug into the pocket and the era’s specific techniques with precision, from the spiky, J.B.’s-style horn punctuations to the accompaniment of guitarist Thomas Brenneck, whose curt fills and lithe comping exhibited the lessons of R&B session aces like Cornell Dupree, Steve Cropper and Eric Gale. Out front, Bradley delivered the durable soul shouts, splits, mic-stand trickery and kneeling, slow-aching laments that are his borrowed trademarks. (Bradley would have been impressed by similar moves when he reportedly saw James Brown play the Apollo in 1962.) Toward the close of the show, he hopped into the audience to hug his friends and admirers—another trademark that felt uniquely momentous on this very special night.
Photographer Greg Aiello was there shooting for JT.