The Soul of John Black: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

John Bigham, the frontman and alter ego of the Soul of John Black, covers a lot of territory with a minimum of fuss. Friday night at the State Theatre, Bigham updated such venerable African American forms as blues, soul, funk and gospel, garnishing them with hints of jazz and reggae. There were also numerous instrumental sorties, as the L.A. singer-guitarist emphasized the latter part of his job description.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

The blues were always present, even when Bigham ventured into a piano lounge for a jazzy (and boozy) account of nursing a romantic breakup. Most of the material was more up-tempo, and might have sizzled given the added heat of a larger audience. Turnout for the show was sparse, as Bigham conceded before vowing to play his entire 90-minute set. The crowd did its best, making a decent-size noise when Bigham led an "all right" sing-along.

Perhaps in reaction to his time in Fishbone, a band that was as theatrical as it was eclectic, Bigham took a relaxed, unshowy approach. Dressed in black T-shirt and blue jeans, the musician avoided soul-man flamboyance: His vocals included occasional falsetto or scat passages but mostly stayed in folk-blues mode, sometimes recalling Richie Havens.

Most of John Black's funky shtick was ceded to bassist Andre Holmes, who strutted about the stage and mimed his disgust during the exuberant if mean-spirited "Bottom Chick." Too bad the evening's liveliest number was also an all-too-authentic throwback to classic R&B misogyny.

-- MARK JENKINS

By J. Freedom du Lac |  May 17, 2009; 8:10 PM ET Live Last Night
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