Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires performed an show Friday night in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium at UAA. Fans piled around the base of the stage, reaching hands out to high five the soul singer during his performance.
The Sweeteners opened up for Bradley, playing a 45-minute beginning act. The trio of three, consisting of a drummer, bassist/backup singer and lead guitar/vocalist, rocked the crowd with catchy tunes and whammy bar riffs to keep the audience pumped. “We came up with this one in the dressing room!” shouted lead vocalist Chad Revynaan, making the audience laugh. Bass guitar Mark Nelson jumped in and said, “This is about the parking at UAA!” Hoots and hollers sounded from the audience, prompting drummer Eric Neet into a bass-filled drum kick to start off the next song.
A short intermission followed The Sweeteners’ performance, giving audience members a chance to get up, stretch, use the bathroom or buy merchandise from the band in the lobby.
Suddenly, the lights went dim in the 800-seat auditorium. The Extraordinaries entered the stage. Members of the crowd screamed for Bradley. The group consisted of a drummer, trumpet player, saxophone man, organ player and three guitarists. The seven-man band brought the room back to a 1960s musical vibe. The organ player walked to center stage, introducing the ensemble.
He screamed, “The one, the only Charles Bradley!” and the audience excitedly stood on their feet. Bradley entered from the left-hand side of the stage in a full red suit bedazzled with a pharaoh design covering the back. Bradley smiled and screamed, “Hello Anchorage, Alaska!” putting his arms in the air and moving them like a bird, referring to his moniker, the screaming eagle of soul.
Bradley has a stage presence hard to describe with words other than astounding. The 66-year-old man didn’t let age factor into his dance moves. Several times, he let the mic stand fall to the floor, and then yanked it back up by the cord, making the crowd scream even louder. About halfway through the performance, Bradley slowed it down and played, in his words, “a song to love to and make love to.” Audience members all around grabbed those they loved and slow danced to his soulful voice. At one point in the performance, Bradley laid completely on the floor of the stage, serenading a woman in the front row, reaching out a hand for her to grab.
After a costume change to a solid black outfit with tinsel-like collar and cufflinks, Bradley thanked Alaska for its love and beauty and told the audience goodnight. The organ player came to center stage one final time to ask the audience if they wanted more Charles Bradley. The feedback from the crowd was phenomenal, screaming an obvious yes. He screamed again, “The screaming eagle of soul, Charles Bradley!” Bradley entered from left stage again, arms raised in the air with hands the shape of a heart. Crowd members reciprocated the heart, screaming, “I love you, Charles! I love you!”
While The Extraordinaires played backup, Bradley described how he hitchhiked to Alaska many years ago, ending up in Ketchikan where he worked for several months. “I was so ready to come back,” he said.
Before his final song, Bradley took a moment to say a few words to the crowd. “God made us all different. Even though we have different skin colors, the blood that runs through our veins never changes color. There is a white flower, and she is beautiful. There is a yellow flower, he is beautiful. Everyone in the room is beautiful.”
Bradley closed his performance with his most-known song, “Why Is It so Hard,” resulting in a standing ovation. Bradley then got into the crowd of people swarmed around center stage and hugged his fans. People went nuts, taking pictures and holding their hands out for Bradley to hold. After a few minutes in the crowd, Bradley went on stage to thank Alaska for all of the love he was given on this trip. One last time, Bradley exited the stage, holding his hands up in a heart.