Gregory Porter Club Soda, Montreal QC, July 1
Published Jul 02, 2013Soul jazz teddy bear Gregory Porter delivered an astonishing show that will guarantee his success in Montreal for years to come. This was an absolutely perfectly inspired combination of a magnetic frontman and a sublime band. It was super soulful and uplifting without ever descending into schmaltz. Porter is a big guy with a big heart whose voice comes easily but reaches sublime territory when he pushes it even a little bit; the reference points are somewhere between the buttery-smooth but insightful territory occupied by Lou Rawls and Terry Callier.
His positive but introspective lyrics will make anyone forget their troubles and love life, whether he's singing about Harlem's history, nursing a bird back to health or reasoning with a fiancée's parents. From the get-go, the crowd was signing, clapping and chair dancing in Club Soda's cabaret configuration. The band is chock-full of amazing, distinctive soloists, from the sheets of sound from sax player Yosuke Sato to the energetic, Monkish Chip Crawford on piano. The rhythm section grooved mightily, whether fast or slow and also had tremendous soloing chops: bassist Aaron James probably had the solo in the night during the second set. As a unit, they were mesmerizing; often the band would pull back as Porter would hit particularly powerful notes, as if a fader was being pulled back then pushed back in again.
Even ballads were exciting: he wrung every last bit of truth from "God Bless The Child" beyond any other version I've seen live. Best of all was Porter's personality, joshing with the crowd about Montreal's July 1 ritual of moving house ("I can move any damn time I want!") and thanking the audience for coming to Club Soda instead of the strip bars next door. His sincerity, genuine positivity and awe-inspiring talent are going to make him a singer of his generation if he isn't already. If you like music, don't hesitate to see him if he comes within 100 km of your town.