A small, slightly worn out venue – The Rhythm Factory on Whitechapel Road – was the launch pad for Spoken Word poet G.R.E.Ed.S’ EP release on January 12th. Poetry spoken to music: this ticked my boxes in all the right places. I had no idea that I was about to uncover gold.
Joel Culpepper. First supporting act. Why the f**k isn’t this boy famous already?? Thirty seconds into his set and there is no mistaking the hallmark of a natural born performer. Described as a mix of Andre 3000, Kanye West, J Dilla and Omar, Joel does his thing with ease and perfection. With his long beard, “Ray Charles” Ray Ban Club Master shades and navy blue shooting jacket, he certainly rivals Andre 3000 for his effortless kooky cool attire. Hats off!
His tracks go from an undeniable US East Coast vibe in Keep The Faith to a vintage RnB sound in I Fell, onto an instantly recognisable London Tinie Tempah typa twang in I Got You. Give a hand for his band, The Transformers. It is impossible not to have fun when the musicians – eyes closed and grooving away – look as if they’d be there playing anyway, crowd or not.
Joel would be just as at home in one of New York’s clubs in an age gone by. This is how you imagine all the great souls of soul starting out: a cosy, dark, nameless venue where you bump into them afterwards on your way back to the bar.
Next came Kal Lavelle. Quite a sharp change and readjustment, sound and tempo wise: hip-hop to singer songwriter. Would it work? By God, yes.
I am loath to use the term singer songwriter because it is tired and slightly nondescript. Two things that Kal is not is tired and nondescript. She had everyone stunned and rooted to the spot with her opening number, Shivers. A tune so gorgeous you want it going round your head for days.
Her lyrics are simple and speak reams. It is as if she’s really speaking to her Ex, the subject of Disaster. She finished her short set with a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, ending with a line from Aloe Black’s I Need A Dollar.
Kal’s voice has that beautiful Irish essence. She sings with a wonderful intensity – breaking out occasionally into a shy grin – and strums her instrument like a flamenco guitar player. Her voice is just as comfortable in the lower octaves as it is up high. And she’s an absolute legend – who looks just grand red patent brogues – with a great self-deprecating sense of humour between songs.
Maybe it was the sheer quality of what had come before, but the man of the night got off to a little flat start. It didn’t quite feel like Greeds’ show – especially after the previous two diamonds. His flow was lost in the maelstrom of everything else on stage with him – singers, drummers, keyboardists and guitarists.
Greeds has undeniable charisma which makes him an ideal host – I had previously met him at open mic night Jawdance where he was hosting proceedings. But would he be star of his own night?
Turns out all that was needed were a few warm up numbers. There was a touch of ska, à la Madness, in We Are and something about The Streets in Riot – performed with Haydn of the Stow and Josh Idehen – that turned the crowd into a mosh pit. The following song was the chilling but stunning Forgive Me (sadly not on the EP), featuring the brilliant Kyra. I was a teardrop away from waterworks.
Only Me, featuring Wilson, was as smooth and sensual as it gets. “I will make your eyes roll to the back of your skull, and when you refocus tell me it’s not love you see”: a lovely balance to the raucous Riot and the heart wrenching Forgive Me, while Be Bold – sung with Dionne Reid – had some great Carlos Santana style guitar on.Yomi is the poet. The Remedies are the sound. The final product is a riot with carnival heart and soul.
Greeds’ EP release was the most down to earth and friendly gig I have been to. Greeds’ family were there sitting on the sofa by the stage and we were all treated to warm Nigerian puff puffs, courtesy of Mama Greeds. What a night, what a variety show, what talent. Kal’s next gig is on 27th January at 333 Old Street. Joel’s is on 3rd February at The Victoria in Mile End.
Follow them on Twitter: @iamGREEdS, @KalLavelle, @Jculpeppermusic.