Over the years – some forty-plus! – I’ve seen literally hundreds of performers and probably close to a thousand or so shows. There are times when I’ve gone with some certainty of what I would witness, oftentimes because I’ve seen a performer before and unless there’s been a radical change in their approach or repertoire, there will be a degree of predictability.
When I knew Charlie Wilson was coming to London for his first show as a solo artist, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I imagined we’d hear some Gap Band classics (given he was the pioneering group’s lead singer and a primary writer for the team) but that most of his show would be devoted to the quartet of solo albums he’s released since the 2000 set, “Bridging The Gap.” Given the great response he’s had in more recent years in the U.S., it was likely he would focus on his solo work.
So much for expectation! While 2011 is not over yet, I can predict that Charlie Wilson’s dynamic non-stop, full-of-energy- and-soul performance at Indigo 02 will go down as the best soul show we’ve had in London this year. It was tremendous! I didn’t go anticipating I’d review it so alas, I can’t give you the running order but that matters not: the fact is, Charlie delivered a superb set. With a first rate band and four dancers to boot, he gave the London audience a real solid R&B show, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long, long time. As my friend Amar, a dedicated soul man, said the show was indeed, "classic!"
Opening with a fanfare, Charlie strode right into “Party Train” and from then on, it was Gap Band favourite, one after the other! They were all there: “Outstanding,” “You Dropped A Bomb On Me,” “Oops! Upside Your Head” and my own personal favourite, the slow jam “Yearning For Your Love.” Naturally, we got treated to some of Charlie’s more recent solo material and I must say, I found “There Goes My Baby” (the No. 1 R&B hit nfrom his 2009 best-seller, “Just Charlie”) still going around in my head, days afterwards! From last year’s “Uncle Charlie” CD, we got his great version of the Roger/Zapp tune, “I Wanna Be Your Man,” the standout slow jam “You Are” and “Life Of The Party.” Charlie is a master as a funkateeer and as a balladeer, which in itself makes him virtually peerless. I can’t think of another classic artist who does both so effortlessly – and beyond the songs, there’s the pure excitement and energy that he infuses into the uptempo cuts! All those moves and steps we associate with old school performers in their heyday were intact and with the aid of his quartet of dancers, he was groovin’ like a solid funk man should!
And then there were the outfit changes! Not quite as frequent as Diana Ross back in the day maybe but close: Charlie came out in brilliant, bright suits and trademark CW hats and at one point, he and members of his superlative band wore jackets and pants that literally glowed in the dark!
Since I didn’t write down the order of the set, thankfully, we have YouTube clips so you can get an idea of what we experienced in London on Friday, September 16. Absolutely brilliant and we can’t wait for you to come on back, Uncle Charlie! You truly dropped a bomb on us soul folks in the UK!
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.