Gregory Porter @ Symphony Hall, 5th April 2018

To promote his recent “Nat King Cole & Me” album, and continue his world domination, Gregory Porter is touring again, and as usual he plays the majestic Symphony Hall, this time for two sold-out nights.

The Nat album was on my list for the top albums of 2017, and his voice suits the songs so well, so I was hopeful of a set filled with those songs, and the grand backing of an orchestra, but it wasn’t to be. Instead we have a stripped-down band, grand piano, Hammond organ, double bass, drums and a brass section of saxophone and trumpet. The whole vibe created was that of a smoky underground club, perfectly illustrated on “On My Way To Harlem” and an early opportunity for the musicians to shine and show how talented they are, but I have to say at times this did get a little too much, and don’t get me wrong I’m not decrying them, but whilst they are giving an impeccable solo, we are not hearing the voice, THAT voice, washing over us, bathing us, healing us.

Dressed as ever in a suit, with a diamante brooch catching the minimal stage lighting, he filled the stage with his presence, and his in-between song chat reinforces just what a genuine, grounded man he is.

Gregory Porter learnt his early trade in the church, and the show almost became evangelical, as he says “the church is about the people, not the building” and if you closed your eyes, you could have been in a church, as the auditorium was filled with applause, sing-a-long, and worship of such beautiful songs performed perfectly. “This is a wonderful city, wonderful food, good beer, but it’s not good beer if you’re drinking it next to a mean person. We need love” and we got love in “Take Me to The Alley”

The sound has always been immaculate in the Symphony Hall, but tonight it just seemed to go one step further, and it really was a privilege to experience it.

There were songs from his whole back catalogue, but some keys songs were missing this evening, for example “When Love Was King” which always gives me goose bumps, and when I discover this has been played at previous shows on this tour I felt even more miffed. There were also few songs from the Nat album, and with just one encore, I was left wanting more.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still a two-hour set, but this was only 18 or so songs, and so this gives you an idea how much solo’s and filling there was. Personally, I’d have liked less solo’s and more songs, but what we got was superb, and as ever Gregory Porter never fails to impress and is the consummate professional.

Standout track was “I Wonder Who My Daddy Is” which beforehand Porter said “my daddy gave me a voice and fat cheeks”. It was so tender with a delicate piano underpinning, and you really could’ve heard a pin drop at times. Stunning. We were also treated to “Papa was a rollin’ stone” which again was brilliant.

The one song encore was “No Love Dying”, as if to reinforce in this mad, crazy world we live in, how important love is. I have no religion but tonight I felt as though I’d had a strong sermon, and I left uplifted in mood and spirit. I would urge anyone to go and see Gregory Porter live.

Support tonight was by Kris Berry, a wonderful vocalist, whose album “Berry Street” is out now. Sadly, she only had thirty minutes, but this was a very strong support set.

 

Reviewer: Glenn Raybone

 

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