Gregory Porter | Rating: **** | Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Porter really got into his stride with On My Way To Harlem, a whistle-stop tour of the neighbourhood that name-checked Langston Hughes and Marvin Gaye, while giving the band a brisk work-out. The singer’s more sentimental side emerged in ballads such as the yearning of Hey Laura and the playful remonstrations of Be Good (Lion’s Song).
A highlight was his anthem of compassion for society’s casualties (and title track of his new album), Take Me to the Alley, spelling out its message in clear and uncompromising tones. Similarly heartfelt was another new song, Don’t Lose Your Steam, while the ominous surge of 1960 What? referenced the civil rights struggle, with a howling sax and trumpet crescendo. There was much ebullient flexing of vocal muscle in the gospel-infused drive of Liquid Spirit and the chain-gang brass slams of Oscar Brown’s classic Work Song as well as an explosive rendition of Papa Was a Rolling Stone.
And when it came to covers, Tennessee singer-songwriter and pianist Kandace Springs, who gave a well-received opening set, really raised the roof with her rendition of First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, managing to fuse tenderness and real power.