Cee Lo Green + Ebony Bones! @ Birmingham Academy, 28th March 2011

A merican singer songwriter Thomas DeCarlo Callaway is a talented soul. Also a rapper and producer, originally part of southern hip-hop group Goodie Mob, he then went onto form Gnarls Barkley with Dangermouse. Tonight we see him in his own right at The Academy – “laydees” and gentlemen welcome Cee Lo Green.

On stage at 8.15 come support act Ebony Bones! Before coming to tonight’s gig, I caught a bit of the 2009 album ‘Bone of My Bones’ and they seem an eclectic mix of dance meets 80s Bowwowwow, with full on African drum beat. The band appear on stage in bizarre costume including the guitarist in a wooly hat with red bobble and two male singers in face masks with beaks! The singers rat-tat-tat on metal percussion instruments in line to a full on drum beat. The on comes front woman Ebony Thomas in a bright green long stringed dress with massive beaded necklace and pink tie-dyed leggings accompanying her massive bleached Afro hairdo.

‘We Know All About You’ features an infectious beat, while bizarrely, the house lights are switched on and off on time to the beat. She’s a full on character, full of energy, bouncing around the stage – at one point rolling around on it. Ebony Bones! are a tad out of place with this audience (the Academy is half full made up of middle aged woman, younger couples and little people) – they would do far better supporting a dance act, RnB act like Tinie Tempah or indie band. She tries in vain, to get the audience to bounce left, then right, then forwards, then back. “Birmingham stand up …clap along – it doesn’t matter about the person next door to you – you won’t see them tomorrow.”

Then they run off stage and back on – now she’s dressed in a full length white sheet, with poles to extend the arms – producing a fan effect when she holds her arms aloft. Last song ‘Guess We’ll Always Have New York’ is extended by another – which comes to an abrupt halt less than a verse in, much to her apologies. Technical problems or booted off stage for the set running on too long? Hmmmnnnn…. an interesting if somewhat unique band.

The main man is due to appear onstage at 9.15. Meanwhile laid back 70s soul is played through the sound system. 9.25 the roadies are still sound checking “one, two…. two…. two… one, two…” Dry ice is squirted across the stage, the crowd cheer expectantly. “One, two…” goes the roadie. 9.30 he’s still not on, we’re bored, the crowd are talking (not the type of crowd to heckle).

Finally 50 minutes after the support act departed, at 9.40 the lights go down and there’s a deep spoken voice over piano, with words for the “laydees” that Marvin Gaye would have been impressed with. Then a rock sound with scream and on comes Cee Lo Green, a larger man, dressed in gold shirt and shades, accompanied by an all female band dressed in gold cat suits – think Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ video.

For the first song the sound balance is out and it takes until the second ‘Bright Lights Bigger City’ for the crowd to fully wake up and engage, repeating back the “oh yeahs”. He rolls through the songs from his 2010 album ‘The Ladykiller’. ‘I Want You” is followed by the Gnarls Barclay hit ‘Crazy’ which live, comes across as one of the more stand out tracks.

He’s quite chatty, engaging rather than charismatic, speaking fast with a small American voice, sometimes difficult to understand, specifically to the “laydees” in the audience. The songs are very much in the format of the three-minute pop song and appear to stop abruptly. Then to the end of the set and the net sensation ‘Fuck You’, which gets the crowd going and morphs into what bizarrely appears to be The Clash’s ‘Rock The Casbah’.

Back on for the encore – “Forget You’ – an acoustic accompaniment with piano in tow. Then into a cover of the Lou Reed classic “A Perfect Day’ which starts off as a highlight of the show, Cee Lo hitting very high notes – but it grinds to a halt after one verse and one chorus. “You keep me hanging on – see you all at the afterparty…”

Cee Lo Green isn’t someone to really watch, better on the radio than live and he dances like a telly tubby! But he undoubtedly has a great soul voice, not really shown to its full capability in a venue such as the Academy, where the sound is not always the best; at times tonight there’s terrible feedback. Tonight’s gig cost £23.50 – for a just about an hour set, for which he was nearly half an hour late. If he’s out supporting a bigger act, worth seeing, but as for in his own right, to be honest I’d save your monies.

Ebony Bones! ‘Bone of My Bones’ (2009)
Cee Lo Green ‘The Ladykiller’ (2010)
Review – Zyllah Moranne-Brown

Unfortunately no photographs were permitted for this concert.

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