Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires brought soul, funk, and sequins to the High Noon Saloon on December 4, 2013. The victim of love himself shouted and shimmied his way through two sets and an encore, often proclaiming his love for the crowd and even stepping offstage to hug his fans. Click on any photo below to see more shots from the night, or follow this link.
Caroline Smith has been very popular in Madison, and for years I’ve been on the outside looking in. I first saw Smith with her band The Goodnight Sleeps at the High Noon Saloon a couple of years ago and was so bored that I actually went to go sit down in the back. I tend to be overly picky about female singers, and women in the singer-songwriter category almost never are a hit with me. I saw the band again after the release of Little Wind and while there was a song or two that wasn’t bad I still just couldn’t get excited about Caroline Smith the way so many of my friends did.
Smith released a new album, Half About Being a Woman, in October and it was reported that her sound was markedly different. When I saw she was opening for Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires at the High Noon Saloon on December 4, 2013 I thought I should give her another look.
What I’d heard was right – she has taken a new approach to her style. Most notably she’s replaced her band and moved from acoustic to electric. The more robust instrumentation allows Smith to push her voice and for the first time I noticed how lovely it really is. While some remnants of her shared past with Haley Bonar and Colbie Caillat remain, the new material references soul and 90s R&B. Generally Smith seems to have left some of the wide-eyed earnestness behind and has embraced fun – her set was full of smiles and dancing and even a few of Kendrick Lamar’s verses. I’m still not head over heels for Smith, but I can say that I’ll no longer skip her set when she’s on the bill.
I’ve been digging on California Wives since we first heard them this summer. On January 25, 2013 I finally got a chance to check them out at the High Noon Saloon as part of FRZN Fest in Madison, Wisconsin. Playing a bulk of their album, Art History, California Wives evoke the 80s without being kitsch. Their sound is firmly planted in the present but one immediately knows the familiar landscape of the band’s upbringing.
Art History‘s songs are well-crafted, but they take on a new urgency and depth live. “Better Home” was the set’s apex, crashing relentlessly over the crowd during the song’s last two minutes. The band smartly reserved their self-proclaimed danciest songs for the end, knocking out “Marianne”, “Purple”, and “Blood Red Youth” in quick succession. Combined with charming banter and visual panache, California Wives gave one of the most solid performances I’ve seen in awhile.
Click on any of the photos below to see more pictures of California Wives, or click here.