Words by Allie Mason

MONTREAL, QUE. – Aloe Blacc and the Grand Scheme arrived at Le Belmont earlier this month and brought with them some seriously soulful musical schematics.

Blacc charmed the audience, wearing a pair of slim-fitting red trousers, an embroidered white button-up shirt, a suit vest, a stylish black fedora and his signature dimpled smile. His band mates looked equally fashionable in classic three-piece ensembles, giving the group an air of 40s sophistication.

Le Belmont is intimate with brick walls, high ceilings and artistic accents sporadically mounted on the walls. There were bars on two sides, not that I could reach either of them since the place was packed like a sardine can with people of all walks of life. Aloe Blacc and the Grand Scheme drew a varied crowd that I had never seen before in Montreal: hipsters, Rastas, clubbers, hippies and thugs young and old.

The Grand Scheme played their most recent album, Good Things (2010), cover-to-cover, taking each song to the next level stylistically. Blacc’s performance paid homage to some of the greats in soul like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and Al Green. The band played “Green Lights,” the second track from the new album, as a tribute, going from Blacc’s signature soul to funk and even reggae. The audience waved American dollar bills during Blacc’s hit single “I Need a Dollar” and Blacc was grinning from dimple to dimple as he watched his audience sway back and forth during “You Make Me Smile.”

Blacc’s music is more than just easy on the ears “it has a motive. His message is current and political, with lyrics like Shake our hand and stab our backs / Don’t know why they do us like that, in his song ‘Politician.”

The transitions between songs were seamless and smooth, just like Blacc’s soulful vocals. The chemistry between the band members and the fans was undeniable, as a heavy haze of perspiration hung above the crowd who appeared unable to stop dancing. “The music is inspired, which is rare for modern R& B, said Michael Beaton, a sound engineering student at Recording Arts Canada. The concert seemed to have almost no down time and they kept the crowd dancing all night. It made for a really fun show.”

Blacc bid the crowd adieu after a full set but they were persistent, cheering, “A-LOE BLACC! A-LOE BLACC!” The band returned one-by-one performing exceptionally funky solos and finished off the night with a slow, soulful cover of “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson. The smooth, syncopated lullaby accompanied by Blacc’s falsetto closed the night perfectly like some sort of Blacc magic.


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