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Paul Mann: Screaming Eagle of Soul Charles Bradley Lands at UCSB

Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band played the last show of the year in the UCSB Arts & Lectures concert series on Nov. 28 at Campbell Hall.

The band began with a short soulful set of jazz and blues pop. Playing to a subdued but respectful crowd, the band members, some of whom played with Amy Winehouse during her most successful period, showcased their veteran musical skills, before soul singer Bradley took the stage.

It would be easy to dismiss the animated singer, who began his career as a James Brown impersonator, as a novelty act. But the singer, who came to record his first album, No Time for Dreaming, in 2011, brought a lifetime of real-world experience to the critically acclaimed endeavor. The result has left the 62-year-old singer carrying the gauntlet of original American soul music into the 21st century.

By the time the animated crooner had screamed, danced and sweated his way into the band’s second set, even the most elderly season ticket holders were on their feet clapping and dancing to the beat, while students were wildly dancing in the aisles.

In 1962, a young Bradley witnessed a live concert by Brown at the Apollo Theater, in a life-changing expression. But it was over 35 years of life as a homeless runaway, chef and odd jobs man, before playing music under the moniker Black Velvet, that he was finally discovered by Daptone Records.

The real-world experiences of his life can be heard in his heartfelt emoting and guttural groveling in true American soul and blues singing at its best.

The exhausted singer ended his show by venturing into the audience, while the band continued to play for another 15 minutes. The “Screaming Eagle of Soul” reached out to every responsive fan for personal contact, and much of the crowd found it impossible not to embrace the sweaty performer in a heartfelt bear hug.

Bradley and the Menahan Street Band are carrying the torch of soul music to the benefit of a new generation of traditional music lovers.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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