Words by Audra Tracy

Everybody loves James Brown. He’s an American classic, like apple pie and Jack Daniels. And whether your radio dial is set to Hot 97 or WFMU, The Godfather of Soul has influenced many of the artists you listen to today – like Charles Bradley, Brooklyn’s ‘Screaming Eagle of Soul’.

Before he cut a debut record with Daptone/Dunham last year, Charles Bradley was just kickin’ around Coney Island, singing James Brown covers at local bars. The popularity of his first LP No Time for Dreaming sent Bradley’s career surging in 2011, and now, at 64, he’s filling the trendy Hiro Ballroom in New York City on a Saturday night.


Reprising the role of his alter ego, BLACK VELVET, Bradley and his eight-piece Allstarz Band showed up ready to please, please, please us.

Jimmy Hill’s Allstarz warmed up the crowd for this ultimate James Brown experience before BLACK VELVET made his grand entrance to Hiro’s stage around 9:30 with ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. Dressed in a white suit and a wig of silky smooth locks, his presence alone caused immediate outbursts from swooning, lovestruck females. And once they heard his anointed voice, the man completely owned the room.

When BLACK VELVET has the spotlight, he earns every bit of his alias. He has a swagger that can not be taught, a fact confirmed as he spryly showed off all the Godfather’s signature dance moves during ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ and ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’.

The lovely ladies of the Allstarz got their time to shine too, taking on the vocals for vintage soul hits like ‘Stormy Monday’ and ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’. Another 60’s cover, ‘At Last’, paid a timely tribute to the late songbird Etta James, who passed away on January 20th.

‘Soul Power’ and ‘Make it Funky’ rounded out a short set that found Hiro Ballroom pleading for more. “I love you, I love you”, BLACK VELVET humbly responded to his panting fans as he greeted them on the dance floor with warm embraces.

Whether he’s performing as himself or James Brown Jr., the Screaming Eagle will undoubtedly work you into a cold sweat. Go get some.


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