Tuesday night at the Bluebird Theater was a journey through time - a journey that brought to mind the past, present and future of soul music. AEG Live Rocky Mountains presented a show featuring important names in national and local soul and funk music - a showcase so profound, it left me in a state of awe. Soul music is about sharing passion and energy that is deeply rooted in one's spirit and shared through song. There was such an abundance of passion and energy Tuesday night that by the end of it all, the audience could literally reach out and feel it.

Bop Skizzum

The show began with Denver locals Bop Skizzum, who gave the audience a look at the present and future of soul and funk music. I'd been anticipating seeing this band for a while, having heard that they thrive in live performance and that their style of soulful funk-rock is a joy to experience. But knowing that still did not prepare me for what was an explosion of visual and auditory entertainment - an opening performance packed with enough energy to blast a rocket to the moon.

Bop Skizzum's Horn Section

Bop Skizzum is a seven piece alternative funk rock band, and they came out on stage dressed as sharp as could be. They featured a horn section, dressed in matching gray suits; two trumpeters (Joe Ferrone, John Lake)  and a saxophonist (Serafin Sanchez). Dressed in suit vests on the other side of the statge stood the bassist (Chris Harris), Bop Skizzum's new drummer (David Cannava) and singer/guitarist Andy Rok. Sultry singer Erin Jo Harris commanded center stage wearing a glittery sparkling champagne colored short dress. The handsome bunch took their spots on stage, lighting the fuse to get the show started with a bang.

Serafin Sanchez and Andy Rok of Bop Skizzum

That figurative fuse burned fast, and in the blink of an eye a burst of sound and energy hit the Bluebird Theater in the form of Bop Skizzum's high energy funk-rock. They've managed to take the passion and style of classic soul and inject the attitude and force of rock 'n' roll, creating a modern sound that is the best of both worlds. Their evolutionary take on funk and soul reveals that present iterations of the genre are alive and well and should continue to adapt through the future. But it wasn't just the quality of their sound that made their performance so enjoyable, this band displayed the true meaning of stage presence.

Erin Jo Harris of Bop Skizzum

From the very beginning of the performance, Erin Jo Harris was nothing but the embodiment of high intensity, riling the crowd with her energetic and captivating motions on stage. It's as if she was building kinetic energy by dancing wildly across stage, building it up to power her commanding, soulful voice.  Andy Rok matched that same vocal intensity, while also projecting that force through his guitar. The rest of the band followed suit, playing their respective instruments with discernible passion. Bop Skizzum would heighten the party mood whenever they showed off their dynamic synchronized dance moves - a visual treat that enticed onlookers to join along. Not ones to be selfish, Bop Skizzum further enticed crowd movement by actively getting the audience involved in their music. Many Bop Skizzum songs featured audience participation - the crowd would be called to sing and clap along, which did well to get the crowd engaged and fervently dancing.

Bop Skizzum

They played the funkiest and most soulful selections from their repertoire, setting the mood right for the headlining act. I enjoyed the deliciously funky and bass heavy "Hit It On The One". I like how "I'm So Much Cooler" showcased both vocalists, had crowd interaction, included dashes of distorted rock, and generally got everyone jumping up and down. "Little Black Book" was nearly impossible not to love with it's catchy sing along chorus. My favorite song was the slow and soulful ode to a past lover, "What I Want To Hear". I also loved the Bop Skizzum funk-rock styled covers they performed, especially their version of Florence + The Manchine's "Dog Days Are Over". Bop Skizzum's set list showcased the range of their immense musical talent and did well to get everyone prepared for even more soulful moments to come.

Menahan Street Band's Horn Section

Next up was the Menahan Street Band, and they came on stage to perform a couple short songs to warm things up before backing headliner Charles Bradley. They started off with a piece that showcased the supergroup's instrumental prowess - an eerily funky mash of soulful musical ambrosia. They then proceeded into the signature piece "Make The Road By Walking", which got the crowd into a frenzy. With the crowd successfully riled up, they transitioned into a Menahan Street Band version of The Impression's "Mighty Mighty (Spade & Whitey)", transporting everyone in attendance to another era.

It was 1969 when The Impressions released the album The Young Mods' Forgotten Story. "Mighty Mighty" was the last song off that record, a song that foreshadowed the funk and soul style that songwriter Curtis Mayfield would later expand on and embrace. When Charles Bradley came out on the stage to sing "Mighty Mighty", I couldn't help but feel like I was looking back at a scene that may have happened forty years ago. And then Charles Bradley opened his mouth, and things became even more surreal.

Charles Bradley

Witnessing Charles Bradley sing in person is unlike any other vocal performance I've ever seen. I'm too young to have ever seen any of the old original soul greats, but after seeing Charles Bradley, I feel like I know how it might have been. He sings from the very depth of his core, and the sixty-two years of trials and tribulations he's endured and experienced through his life come surging out of his body through song. He relives each word of each song right there on stage - you can see the earnestness flow out of his every pore. Every time the Screaming Eagle of Soul shrieks, it punctuates his genuine emotion - each wail powerfully instinctive and not at all forced - just another piece from the depths of his inner self that he's willing to share with the crowd.

Charles Bradley

He is absolutely mesmerizing on the merits of his voice alone, but he takes it so much further with his stage presence. Every motion on stage he makes is deliberate - each gesture a calculated movement to best portray the story he is trying to share. When he speaks of hardship, he'll carry the microphone stand over his back like he's bearing a cross. When he speaks of love, he'll move his body lasciviously in a way you'd have to see in order to believe. At one point he pressed his index finger to his shoulder as if to check his temperature, and I'm pretty sure I heard a sizzle and saw some steam rising because he was performing with such expression he was red hot.

Charles Bradley performed mostly songs off of his debut album, No Time For Dreaming. He sang about the trials in his life in "Heartaches And Pain" and "This World (Is Going Up In Flames)" in a way that made you feel his pain. He sang "Lovin' You Baby" like he was professing his love to every woman in the room. His soulful rendition of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" really drove home the message of the song. Each and every Charles Bradley song told a clear story or had a clear message, and the crowd hung on every word like listening to a preacher deliver his sermon.

When it came to the end, Charles Bradley spoke to the crowd as if he was addressing each individual in the room. The crowd at the Bluebird had nearly as much energy as Charles Bradley did the whole night, and so he earnestly said that he opened his heart for the audience that night, and that he loved everyone for their appreciation. The crowd reacted by calling for an encore as loud as I've ever seen or heard, and when Charles Bradley returned, he treated the audience to one more amazing song, the autobiographical "Why Is It So Hard".

I didn't think he could open up his heart any more than he had already been doing throughout the night, but there was something about the way he shared his personal story in that last song that sort of bonded me to him, although we'd never even met. When the music ended, he did not head back stage, but instead ventured out and embraced as many people as he could throughout the whole venue. It was true passion you really could touch, and it created such an awesome energy that the whole evening seemed like a dream - when in reality it was probably one of the most genuine musical experiences I've ever had the privilege to witness.

Tuesday night was an incredible showcase of truly skilled and passionate musicians sharing their gift of music with the crowd. From start to finish, the concert was nothing short of an auditory thrill ride packed with so much palpable emotion it could be felt down to the very bone. From the opening salvo of energetic funk-rock from Bop Skizzum to the heart-warming yet jaw-dropping funky soul of Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Tuesday night at the Bluebird will be a night I'll cherish forever.

See more pictures from this show in the Facebook photo gallery. Like the Concerted Effort page and keep updated!

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