I wind down stairs into a cavern-esque room that is being stretched by peals of saxophone, the walls expanding outward ‘till it feels like the whole world is just this black, indeterminate booze-hole and yet it feels so big but so centred. Centred because, right now, here, I hold on to the instant, when the centre of the universe locks eyes with me and winks a wink of warmth and welcome and JAZZ.
This orbital focal point grins and shimmies away, and the pulse she moves to becomes my pulse as I dissolve and rematerialize at her feet. Bright blue peacock explosions emanate from her eyes, augmenting the intensity with which her performance is imbued. It’s 80% Winehouse and 20% Patti Smith; there’s a soulful mourning but also an irreverence present in the way this singer allows her voice to climb and climb and climb and then just artfully crack. It’s beautiful, it’s sweet, but not like honey, as the trope goes, more like marmalade; zesty and bitter and complex.
This marmalade is spread over a gloriously varied repertoire provided by the 5-piece band that backs her. They look the business; all buffed black shoes and unwrinkled shirts, they provide the unwavering, jazz based platform upon which the singer thumps and whirls. It would not sound out of place in a smoky, blue lit café, but there is something more at play here; it would be too easy for these guys to simply peddle some syncopated guitar chords and subdued saxophonies and they know this. As such the tempo is malleable; never content at one pace the crowds dancing shifts accordingly. In the space of just one song afro-beat chords shiver from the keyboard like ice cubes in a rum cocktail before building to a reckless, stomping skank.
It would be easy for any music lover just to gape at this spectacle and enjoy the musicality of the band, but the unrelenting performance put in by all ensures that this will not be the case. About three songs deep the front-peacock addresses the crowd; “I am Charlie Melrose, this is my awesome band, and you can be in it too!” before she hands out various maracas to the front row of spectators. This signals a further expansion of this outfit’s musical capabilities; they descend into a rollickingly authentic Latin number and the whole place jangles along. I start to feel that this is not just a band-audience relationship, it is one of familiarity and ease; we may have paid to see Charlie Melrose and her band, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to see us too.
For all the considered stage craft and bombast and theatricality however, there is a certain raw frankness about the whole thing; through her heavily done-up eyes Charlie locks eyes with the crowd; she’s not afraid to make it personal. Its clear this music is from the heart. I feel I am being treated that rare sort of feeling you get when hearing a blues singer’s languishing tone; that split second when their eyes betray their feelings to you and you know, you just know their heart is aching too.
A devastating performance indeed and when the last peals of brass dissipate into the air that has been heated by vigorous reactions from the crowd it is with relief that someone starts up a chant of “One more song”, for I do not think I am ready to face the lamp-lit, unmelodious streets of Brighton just yet. The band obliges and in slink the opening nudges of the jazz staple Feeling Good. I am reluctant to believe this at first; this band who have taken every opportunity to deny the clichéd jazz nature of their music resorting to this old chestnut? But my irk is misplaced and my fears are allayed as the tireless Charlie attacks the number with a feverish wild-eyed vitality. They execute it excellently and this further increases the vertiginous feelings I have about leaving the venue; I can’t possibly go yet ‘cause I’m FEELING GOOD.
By Adam Morrison