All I can offer you is my analysis of an interesting evening! I am at The Pigalle Club for the Leela James gig. The Pigalle club generally known as a kind of cabaret supper club, with its intimate surroundings has pulled in a diverse crowd for this gig. I have a sense that the background music is not going to build the party atmosphere to get the crowd up for this gig. There are murmurings that the band is ready but Leela isn’t here yet at around 9pm but I pay this no heed. The delay is not too long (I’ve known much longer) and Leela and band take to the stage at 9.20pm. Leela is on stage and into her first number and the sound (her vocals) is clearly not that great. The audience are clearly not up to Leela’s standard of “party” and so, I think at the time in true diva style, she leaves the stage vowing to return when the crowd is ready to party and the sound man is prepared to sort the sound and a mic stand – a reasonable request?! She is not gone for long and returns to the stage suitably “loved up” and firing on all cylinders. I can see that she is a performer as well as one hell of a singer but I cannot hear her above the band. She reminds me of Adeva as she loves getting her audience on stage with her and this happened at several times during the gig. At one point there are about ten members of the audience on stage dancing with her. She clearly had her faves at the front of the audience and one guy was up at least three times, initially slightly reluctant, but carried off his role with cool aplomb. Leela evens ventures into the audience at one point and encounters some guy who has a squeeze of her “boot”. Leela amusingly points out that “it’s juicy but it ain’t for you honey”.
Leela perseveres but it is clear that she is frustrated, angry and in her words “pissed off” with the sound and there are several exchanges of mics between her and the backing singer but this makes little difference. By now any requests to try and improve her sound are falling on deaf ears as the band sound great but nothing changes with her vocal. Leela continues trying to keep the crowd up with some funky numbers and it works to a point. We have covers of Rick James’ “Give It To Me”, “Joy & Pain,” and “I Want It All”. She injects some great moves and gets the audience moving with her during “Good Time”. She delivers a powerhouse soulful performance on “My Joy” but it is marred by the sound as is her version of “A Change Is Gonna Come”.
She introduced the band, who delivered great solos, but I have no idea who they were as I could not hear. She alludes to the fact that clearly things have gone on prior to the gig, but her role as an artist is to give us what we paid for and I truly believe that this is what she sets out to do. Her audience are with her and when she leaves the stage they are clamouring for just a little bit more of that Leela spirit and soul. Miraculously, when she returns for an encore of “Tell Me You Love Me” it is the first time that the sound is as it should be and I can hear Leela cutting through above the band and making the impact that I know she can.
Leela was frustrated but persevered and did her best. I was frustrated as I felt her vocals were not making an impact on the songs as she could. I kinda enjoyed it but couldn’t move beyond the frustration of the poor sound. Regardless of what may have gone on behind the scenes prior to the gig I empathised with Leela, intent on giving her audience a performance. Sadly, this gig was totally marred by poor sound. It could have been brilliant, but it seemed like it may have been sabotaged by a disgruntled sound man intent on teaching an artist a lesson. I suppose we may never know, but at the end of the day it should be about giving the audience a show.
About the Writer
Terry Joe is a London-based has led bands as a vocalist, releasing cds and regularly performing. His favourite artists include Anita Baker, Jill Scott, Al Green, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Ledisi, Nathan Haines, Me'shell NdegeOcello and many more.