Eli Paperboy Reed‘s live set at Union Pool last week showcased with gusto what his forthcoming album from Warner Bros, of which we’ve heard snippets, only intimates. Reed, who performs live with a full band, including a mighty talented brass section, drums, synth and bass, is standing squarely atop the tipping point on which artists find themselves right before they launch into mega fame (I will not be a bit surprised when I see him on stage at a mainstream music awards show. However I’ll be insanely surprised to find myself watching a mainstream music awards show). His talent, and the extent to which his songs will invariably garner mass appeal, is evident when watching him live in a way it’s not when listening to his studio recordings (see our track review for “Woo Hoo“, here). This is likely because his singles’ high gloss production quality (as amazing as it is to hear with headphones on), actually deters from the grittier, more compelling aspects of his musical style.
These creative leanings are shaped mostly by a 90’s era soul/funk throwback, whose revival we’re experiencing now in full force, transcending pretty much every strata of the music industry, and whose roots herald back to the days of Jamiroquai, New Radicals, Tribe’s The Love Movement, etc etc (btw can we talk about how “Virtual Reality” came out SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO?!?!). When performed live, with all the bells and whistles attendant with polished live performance intact (especially when that performance is perfectly executed as it was by him that night), his music translates into something more unique than I would have given him credit for previously. He played much of his new work, including the dancy “Woo Hoo” and others. My personal favorite, however, was his cover of Robyn’s ever-pertinent-to-my-life “Call Your Girlfriend”, which had me nearly swooning, not gonna lie, and even compelled me to cheer for an encore.
Union Pool was the perfect venue in which to debut his new work and showcase the ethos his music generates: retro but unique, and hip yet unassuming. Walking into the show felt like entering a movie set, with the small stage’s velvet curtains, vintage flood lighting and impeccably dressed hipsters framing the scene. And even from the band’s opening chords, the crowd was dancing. What better way to announce yourself to the world? We can’t wait to see more from this young talent.
Catch him on December 11th, performing on Letterman with Nick Lowe.