Tuesday, 5 February 2013

We Are Family Foundation Celebration Gala 2.0

Do not adjust your screens, this really is my first post in absolutely ages. I did intend to summarise every concert but the backlog is now massive and Bert time is scarce. So I've been chugging along doing the bare minimum on the Performances site which should come in handy when that write-up time arrives. Not sure when that or the next post will be though.

Shady is by far my favourite Trespassing song for the groove, the mood and the lyrics so when I heard that Adam would finally get to perform it with collaborators Nile Rodgers and Sam Sparro I got all waggly-tailed, to put it politely. But I didn't manage to follow it live as the Earth has the audacity to be so rude as to separate me from the gig by units of time zone rather than inches. Damn you planetary physics and space-time! *Shakes fist*

Watching the videos was a blast though, especially with fresh senses not having first endured a Mermish assault. Here's my playlist:

Adam receives a special We Are Family Foundation Unity award for being his fabulously badass self. Presented to him by Sam Sparro (now where have we seen that before?), he gives a slightly awkward-sounding speech, having a gentle dig the atmosphere probably because the crowd talked all through Sam's presentation.

Zips and leather aplenty, Adam rocks up for the opening number all in black understated chic (but couldn't resist a sparkly electric blue belt). He's joined on stage by Sam, Nile and his band, which includes some original members of Chic and the drummer for Let's Dance. After 50+ versions from the AI tour, I love hearing this arrangement that's so close to the original. This full band version sounds much better than the hollow light-rock AI ones, or the funkless electronic VH1 version. Sam appears to have trouble with his mic, which seems to be on near-silent mode for much of the time. There's only one natural showman though, even with his back to the crowd doing dorky dance moves, such as using an invisible towel to scrub his rear. When Adam comes in for the solos, his voice surprises me by its softness and it's very very sweet. Makes me realise how shouty the early versions were in comparison. It lends extra impact to the sparingly-used big high notes, making them even more goosebump-inducing.

Shady is the one I've been waiting so long for, and my expectations were that this would be a special one. After a number of close calls of being in the same place but different day last year, Adam, Nile and Sam would finally be united on stage for a performance. There's an endearing familiarity between them on stage, the banter beforehand like that between old friends. I can only imagine how enjoyable it must have been to create this together. I love the sound of the dirtier bass and Nile's funk guitar. The tempo is much faster and it really bounces along. Aside from Sam's sound issues, the vocals are perfect, backing harmonies great and that panting part is delicious enough to tip anyone over the edge. I spot the return of the flaily-arm woman (of Glam Nation DVD infamy) right at the front of the stage doing her thang but thankfully the arms aren't overly obstructive. The brass section adds some light jazzy pizazzy fun, with the instrumental section inducing stank faces and impelling hips to get a groove on. In keeping with Adam's penchant for mixing songs (Naked Love + 100% Pure Love, Pop That Lock + Smooth Criminal) there's an inclusion of En Vogue's Free Your Mind in the mix too. There's so much more energy and vigour on stage than previous renditions, but at the same time there's an ease and a natural chemistry as talented musicians just having a jam.

WWFM is next in the set and Adam is honoured that Nile is accompanying on guitar. It's a fast and very full-sounding version with more backing vocal layers than normal, a funk edge and more instruments. Even brass makes an appearance. It's been quite some time since the last studio-like arrangement and it's a joy to see them both swaying together in synch to the music.

The set concludes with a fast-paced Trespassing that follows closely along the lines of the album version including the electro elements. I don't think Adam's quite ready when the band starts up but he makes it on cue. I love Nile's contribution to this version with and can't help feeling that this is how it ought to sound. Adam ends up singing some of the harmonies and nails the vocals including a magnificent ringing glory note.

I feel that what we have here is a level above what's gone before and I'm a huge fan of the bassist as well as Nile on guitar. I like the mixture of male and female backing vocals and the double drum kit. The brass adds an extra dimension as well as providing depth and variety. The short set provides a glimpse of what could be achieved in a live performance with a different set-up and direction. I hope it gives Adam some food for thought regarding options with the band to experiment with, aiming for more adventurous and free-spirited performances. I get the feeling that jamming on stage is where the magic really happens for Adam. I think he's at his best when spontaneous; venturing, reacting and flowing through a performance, continually probing, testing and adjusting rather sticking to a rigid plan. Propelled by quality musicianship and feeding off the audience energy to push himself that bit further, Fantasy Springs is the epitome of this for me. The stage here is made up of a mish-mash of very different individuals but they just click, producing something so cohesive. From the costumes to the movements and presentation, I don't feel there's anything contrived and I think it's because he's with musicians who share an understanding and have the style and talent to flourish when given the freedom to express themselves. Because of this, I often wish Adam would lean more towards jazz and funk stylings, especially as he has so much soul. I think the flexibility suits him more than the structure of electronic or rock. I'd be happy if he could infuse more of those dynamic elements into his music both in the studio and on stage.

Just as I was beginning to write this review, I unusually managed to tune in to one of Adam's twitter parties and threw a few speculative questions his way. I had to check several times to make sure my second ever reply was real:

I have yet to meet him so tweets are the only contact I've had. And I'm fucking thrilled! Not only about getting a reply but I getting "sexy" in it. I got a wink and extra info volunteered in my first ever reply so I'm privileged.