Curtis Harding was in New York this week for a couple of shows. His debut album, Soul Power, is so good I decided to go to both.
I was excited about the Mercury Lounge show because it’s a great sounding room and I thought would suit the material to a tee. The only downer was that there was no support act, doors opened at 9:30 and Curtis didn’t play until 11, it would have been nice to have had something to break up the time (or just come on earlier). However, it was well worth the wait.
Despite admitting to only having two hours sleep, Curtis’ voice sounds even better live and he is backed by a tight four-piece band who sound like they’ve been playing together for years. They re-arrange the songs slightly to make up for the lack of brass on stage, which adds so much on record. For the most part the renditions work perfectly and it’s refreshing to see a band not content with simply trying to recreate the songs note for note as they were recorded. Drummer Jonah Swilley in particular gets pretty creative.
The two shows were different enough to justify seeing both, between the two sets almost all of the songs from Soul Power are played and a few non-album cuts also got an outing (a song called Soul Power and Love Is All, which brought out the funk in the band). When the songs that don’t even make the album are stellar then you know you’re watching a real talent.
The Glasslands show was opened by Homeshake, who is the guitarist in Mac DeMarco’s band. His material seems a little unfocused at times and I felt the vocal effects were a little unnecessary since he has a good voice, but he can lay down some grooves and I very much enjoyed his set.
Next up was Darlings and I spent the first couple of songs trying to remember where I had seen them before (Brooklyn Night Bazaar in December with California X and So So Glos). Their somewhat consciously awkward indie-pop was endearing.
The 11th of June (Glasslands show) was also Curtis’ birthday so everyone was in good spirits and there is a mischievous sparkle in his eye in his between-song banter. He has definitely got something special going on and I left both shows wondering how long it would be before he’ll be performing much larger venues. Next time he comes through, make sure to catch a show up close before you’re looking at a blip in the distance because the man should be a superstar.