Concert Review: JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at the Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA
Reviewed by: Dorise Gruber
Chicago neo-soul artist JC Brooks, accompanied by his studio-tight backing band The Uptown Sound, brought an indie twist to classic vintage Motown at Brighton Music Hall last Thursday. Brooks, a skyscraper of a man both in stature and personality, has the charisma of James Brown, the poise of a human statue, the finesse of Otis Redding, and in his own words, the “sweat like Sam Jackson in ‘A Time to Kill.’” Despite an audience age span of roughly 30 years, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound were still able to electrify the lot of us into collective unabashed flailing, though from stage-front Brooks easily outstripped us with his sweet ‘n dirty moves.
While difficult not to be entirely rapt by Brooks’ sultry voice and dashing showmanship, the crowd’s attention divided between his lead, and his rather mismatched bongo/tambourine/triangle player, who looked kind of like a pre-jazzercise Richard Simmons on a day at the beach. We’d marvel at Brooks, gawk at the bongo-ist, and with smiles plastered across our faces from the talent and the humor, not skip a beat with our hips or our toes. Highlight of the night: when the incongruous percussionist hit his tambourines so hard that they actually split right in half, tiny cymbal-lettes whizzing offstage, and audience members scooped up the splintered tambourine halves to play along for the remainder of the show.
Besides the flying instrument fragments and playing some of the top cuts from 2013’s Howl and 2011’s Want More, the other major show highlights were the evening’s two covers – Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” with a little “Theologians” mashed up into it, and Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” JC Brooks has a huge appreciation for fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy, and his totally contrastive horn-filled party-cover of Tweedy’s eerie “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” is what launched Brooks’ name to national recognition. To further the Chicago connection, Brooks & Co. covered Blackstreet’s “No Diggity“ at the Onion’s Chicago headquarters as part of their “AV Undercover 2013” series. JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound are a marriage in Chicago Craigslist-found heaven, a blend of everything magical in independent-new and throwback-old soul, and to see them live is to stand in awe – their style, wit, and overall panache cast a beacon of honor upon their collective home.
1) Married for a Week
2) Want More
3) Rouse Yourself
4) I Got High
5) Everything Will Be Fine
6) I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (Tweedy cover)
8) No Diggity (Blackstreet cover)
9) Before You Die
12) Sister Ray Charles
13) Don’t Lock The Door