3 March 2014
The Enlighten Festival was wet and so quieter than previous years. We'd gone in to hear Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires. He's a mature soul singer from Brooklyn and one-time James Brown cover. Sounds good. The rain was very light as we arrived to find lighted candles fronting the High Court as the Fire Garden. Lovely and also warm. Then on to the outside stage beside the Portrait Gallery. It was closed and then an announcement that the band was moving to Uncle Ben's Electric Garden, a space behind Questacon and the social centre of Enlighten. It was a sensible move to concentrate the limited audience. Shame about the weather. But the rain held off well enough and there was a string of bands to entertain. Lolo Lovita were a Romani quartet playing music of the Balkans. Crystal Barreca and her band are well known locals, many out of the Jazz School. Sunshine Brothers are a reggae flavoured band out of Perth. Their line on the night was "We give you the lust, Charles Bradley gives you the love". Then a walk to the National Library to get some respite from the rain. Dirk and co were playing there, presumably as As Famous as the Moon, so some standards for a change. A quick visit to Questacon for some cutesy science. Interesting to see audio frequencies visible over a tube exuding small fires along its length. And a plasma ball that was both intriguing an beautiful. Then return to the stage and Cam and mates, Brass Knuckle Blues Band, were playing. They are well established and playing really well these days. Then Charles the man. The was a real stage show, nicely structured into two parts, a gee-up from the pianist at the mic, a V-shaped stage presentation with bass-guitar-guitar to the right and trumpet-tenor-keys to the lift, drums riser at center back and Charles himself front and centre. All soulful love for Australia and everyone with instrumental show-opener, songs neatly merging and a show-ending instrumental segment. This was an hour of richly toned music from the two guitars and keys in rhythm section and the two horns for hits and really neat drums and bass. Very sharp and well played, even if the music itself is just a few chords with fairly obvious themes. My ears twitched to a song towards the end that suggested politics, about it being so hard to get on in America, but I'm not sure his answer escaped American dream mythology. And another theme on tolerance that was also presented from an American God-aware worldview. But, then, we are all the products of our upbringing. I'm sure many Americans find us strangely secular. So, despite the light flittering of rain, this was a night of considerable pleasure and plenty of music. Nice.