Tag Archives: menahan street band

Passing Through

“This world is not our home. We’re just passing through.” Charles Bradley, tears streaming down his face, said this to an emotionally enraptured Royce Hall audience Thursday night. The words came after Bradley’s heartfelt imploring of everyone in sight to choose love as a religion.

Charles Bradley opened his heart and soul to the Royce Hall audience Thursday November 29, 2012

And indeed, from the moment the man took the stage the whole evening felt a bit like church. And if love is Bradley’s religion, it’s clear from every word and gesture to the audience Thursday night, he practices what he preaches.

It was unlike anything I’ve witnessed in Royce Hall to date and it was a beautiful thing. The crowd was on its feet for his entire set. Hands reached for him as he performed and continued to after he departed the stage.

It was revelatory, and joyful, even as Bradley shared his stories of struggle and hardship.

Bradley began his set with a song he wrote about his brother’s death, called “Heartaches and Pain.”

It made me think about life and how it is full of both heartaches and pain…and also joy. If we’re lucky there’s more of the latter and the the former doesn’t spiral us into despair.

It also made me think of another revelatory artist who passed through our lives recently–Austin Peralta. He’s been on my mind since the shocking news of his death last week at just 22 years old.

Members of the local music community who knew and loved this astonishing young talent well have been rocked by heartache and pain this week, at the same time they remember the great joy that Austin and his profound ability brought to the lives of his friends and fans of his music.

Today at 1 p.m. Austin’s friends and family are gathering for an open memorial service at Crossroads School in Santa Monica. His parents have asked that it be a moment of joy, requesting that musicians bring their instruments, that friends bring stories and laughter and that attendees eschew dark and dour colors in favor of Austin’s favorite color of orange.

It’s hard to celebrate while wading through heartaches and pain, but it’s also really the only way to pass through this life without succumbing to despair.

Charles Bradley learned that throughout his difficult life and is focused on joy and love and deep gratitude despite the struggles he has endured.

Last month Austin Peralta brought us great joy as he lit up the Royce Hall stage. He talked about how thrilled and grateful he was to perform here, and sharing a bill with Taylor McFerrin, who he introduced as “his brother.” He delighted fans who already knew his work and impressed people who hadn’t yet heard of him.

Austin Peralta was gleeful as he thrilled Royce Hall audiences Oct. 25, performing on his 22nd birthday as the lead opener for the Robert Glasper Experiment.

Austin left us last week, leaving behind heartaches and pain.

Thursday night, Charles Bradley shared his own tales of heartaches and pain, and yet also managed to leave those in attendance with a sense of abounding joy for life.

And perhaps that’s as it should be, since we’re all just passing through.

We’re grateful that both of these artists passed through our lives recently.

Rest in peace Austin and thank you Charles.

On Thankfulness, and the Indefatigable Charles Bradley

Hopefully like us, you’re all taking a pause this week to marvel at the many things we have to be grateful for.

We’re grateful for the artists who have already added so much joy and inspiration to our lives this season and are looking forward to even more on the horizon. (And, were sharing the love with you, via a one-day-only, buy-one-get-one-free ticket offer on upcoming performances good from 8am-midnight on for Cyber Monday Nov. 26. Check our website on Monday!)

One of the emotional highlights of our season comes on the heels of Thanksgiving this year, with the November 29 performance from Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band.

Charles Bradley, now in his 60s and having spent decades as a struggling James Brown impersonator dubbed Black Velvet, just released his first major album in 2011 with “No Time for Dreaming.” Four years in the making, it is full of hope and heartache. This amazing performer is no stranger to suffering, his biography spans stories of drug abuse, homelessness, poverty and a great deal of loss.

And yet, somehow, by all accounts, he is an incredibly grateful, gracious and hopeful individual.

I had the opportunity recently to speak with Poull Brien, the director of Soul of America, a biography on Charles Bradley that is currently touring the festival circuit and will hopefully hit theaters next year.

Poull was deeply moved by his experience getting to know Bradley, with whom he formed a close bond during filming. He began to feel like a brother to the singer.

But that’s not a rare thing, he says.

“Charles is the most unguarded person you will ever meet,” Brien says. “He doesn’t have secrets, he is 100 percent about understanding you and opening up communication with people, and love and finding new friends and it is that open attitude is what I think separates Charles from other artists.”

Brien said one of the many things he took away from his experience with Charles Bradley is a profound sense of the importance of gratitude in this life.

“If it did nothing else for me it taught me that no matter how bleak things seem you just keep going and that the level of thankfulness that you carry with you, that alone can change your life. For Charles, it was that little hope that he had that kept him going for all these years. The guy really embodies that attitude of thankfulness and gratitude and never taking anything for granted.”

“If there’s a lesson to be taken from Charles, it’s that it’s not just about perseverance, and he has had incredible perseverance over the years, but that alone is not enough. It’s the gratitude and love that you have to have in your heart that makes all the difference.”

That’s what Charles Bradley taught Poull Brien, and that’s undoubtedly what he’ll bring to the Royce Hall stage Nov. 29 in a way only he can.

Have a safe, happy and reflective Thanksgiving and please join us next week to revel in the presence of the one and only Charles Bradley.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Poull’s film Soul of America.