Soul musically is still alive and well and welcome on the scene, if Curtis Harding‘s sold-out show at the Echo on Thursday, November 9th is any indication. On tour in support of his new album Face Your Fear, he brought most of the new album to life with the help of a crack band and his own vocal dexterity.
Openers The Entire Universe exceeded expectations. The three piece LA outfit arrived on stage to a cacophony of noise and distortion, with lead singer Jeffertitti (dressed in military coat and hat, with what looked like an old woman’s onesy underneath), holding his guitar like an automatic weapon. I was ready for a group with all-style, no-skills, but happily found they had the chops to back-up their bravado. Singing with a Liam Gallagher sneer, Jeffertitti tackled their rock n’ roll songs with attitude and energy. Even more surprising for such a new band was their masterful command of harmonies, reminding me again of Oasis or their heroes, The Beatles. Don’t be surprised to see these guys conquering festivals before long.
Curtis Harding hit the stage at 10:45pm, though it became clear his band was facing some technical problems. When they had the issues tackled, Harding soon showed that he had great command of his material. His vocals were album-perfect, though at times they became lost in the music (due mainly to an uneven live mix). Thankfully, the new songs came across so well live that it overshadowed these hiccups.
“On and On” was a head-bobbing highlight, and a song that has been continuing to grow on me since it’s release months ago. “Go As You Are” became even more powerful from Harding’s understated performance, and “Til the End” had me singing along.
The band provided great accompaniment. The sideburned guitarist let loose crisp surf-guitar lines, while the brass section helped the songs fill the room. Harding’s background singer stayed literally in the background, causing one to almost forget their was a live human providing the harmonizing so seamlessly.
The songs which stayed primarily in Harding’s falsetto struggled the most to retain the energy of the performance, as the music was simply too overpowering for slow jams. When these numbers did work, they hit home. Second single “Wednesday Morning Atonement” connected better live than it did on the record, becoming emotionally raw as Harding crooned. The show’s best moments remained the soul-rock numbers Harding excels at, “Need Your Love” and “Heaven’s On the Other Side”, songs which got hands in the air and the finicky LA crowd jumping (I wish he had also included “Surf” from his first album, but the show focused mostly on new material).
I’ve been touting Curtis Harding since hearing his cover of The Velvet Underground‘s “Here She Comes Now” on a Burger Records tribute tape, so it was a relief to find his live performance meeting the high expectations his albums created.
The Entire Universe: