Gregory Porter and his band were clearly one of, if not the most popular act during the entire weekend of Cheltenham Jazz Festival. I had never seen him live before and I am in fact, quite a new fan. After seeing him live however, I have asked myself “what on earth took you so long?”.
Henry Weston’s Big Top was full with very eager fans all excitedly waiting for Porter to take to the stage. Led by the band, Porter enters the stage to the music of Revival and the music and vocals filled the big top tent with ease and perfection.
There is something about Gregory Porter that catches your full attention. It isn’t just his vocals, but is his stage presence, his manner of speaking. The way he captivates his audience with his spoken word is truly empowering and I would quite happily listen to him speaking for hours as well as singing. I almost feel that his shows are a lesson of what music truly is and a lesson of peace and love.
Talking about Love, Gregory says how “Love is more important than anything, Love is more important than cars and money” these words then flowed into If Love Is Overrated. A beautiful song which was perfect in a live setting, the audience were incredibly attentive and soaked every note in.
UK audiences, as I have said before are notorious for being quiet and staying sat down at shows such as this. This is a mix of thoroughly enjoying the show and being respectful of those sat behind us and perhaps for some, a lack of confidence to get up and just let loose. Trust us though, we were all enjoying it just as much as if we were dancing in our seats.
It does become quite comedic at times though, the silence. Audience participation can take us a moment and that became apparent when Gregory was singing “clap your hands” a few times. We only got the hint when he kind of made a gesture to clap our hands haha!
Speaking of his late brother, Gregory tells us of when he was asking himself “where does all this energy go? I have all this energy and where does it go?” With that he sang No Love Dying.
Gregory took time throughout the set to introduce his band and showcase their skills. It was nice to watch him stand back and enjoy their talent like the rest of us were.
Concorde was next followed by Hey Laura. Both fantastic songs and even greater live.
Saying how Cheltenham is a great city (Town) Porter says how everywhere he goes, someone buys him a drink and people are so friendly waving at him in the street and he loves that spirit, that liquid spirit.
Be Good (Lion’s Song) was a stand out moment. Gregory paints such a great picture and tells a great story when he sings and this song really made you listen to every word. The same is said for Mister Holland (a favourite of mine). The instrumentation during this song was insane and both Porter and the band were completely caught in the moment. It is such a great song!
Most of the band left the stage for a while and Porter sat on the stool and sang the breathtaking ballad Bad Girl Love. A truly special moment, he was showing us all exactly how it is done tonight.
The solo from the bass player, Jahmal Nichols in particular kept me in high spirits with his infectious smile throughout the set.
During his solo he was wonderfully engaging. Playing a medley of songs with many being well known songs (but for the life of me have now all escaped my memory) got the crowd rowdy and laughing and enjoying recognising the songs.
“I love music, any kind of music, as long as we’re grooving”
Musical Genocide was a lot of fun. The energy during this song was insane. The rhythm, the bass, the sax, the funky edge, all of it, fabulous!
Dad Gone Thing was an emotional moment and soulfully stunning.
Porter is such an exceptional songwriter. It takes an incredibly talented writer to write such songs as the ones he writes but an even more incredible artist and singer to not just bring those songs to life on the stage but to turn them into stories in which the audience get completely lost in and can envision.
As he closed the set, the crowd began stomping and soon Gregory and the band returned to the stage. Looking at the audience, he thanked everyone and pointed to one of the blocks and said “especially you, you can join my band….”
Playing, of course, You Can Join My Band, the audience went wild and the participation during this song was the absolute highlight of the evening. What a great song to close an unbelievable set. I hadn’t even heard this song before (new fan) and have completely fallen in love with it! In fact, I have fallen in love with his artistry as a whole.
There was so much soul, so much Jazz, so much energy. Gregory’s vocals and the musicianship from the band were beautifully blended. The band were exceptional and played with such expertise. All of it was extraordinarily brilliant, truly sensational and was quite simply one of the greatest shows that I have ever been to.
The sound throughout was on top form which doesn’t always happen at a concert, so well done to the sound team for that.
I know I have missed out some songs and possibly got some wrong or the order a bit wrong, I was enjoying it that much that some of it has been misplaced. If you know, please let me know!
The show was an hour and a half of magical happiness, love and liquid spirit and made us forget all the bad things for a moment. He made everyone want to join his band with his mind-blowing set!