Leela James, Aug. 8, 2009, Grand Ballroom

Despite the fact that she has only released one album with original material and despite the fact that I’ve seen Leela James like three times now, I decided to accompany my friend to her concert. He loves Leela like I love Erykah Badu, so I was happy to oblige his request.

Before we arrived, I was hoping her show would be different somehow. Her new album, Let’s Do It Again, is a cover of such classics as “Simply Beautiful” (Al Green), “Let’s Do It Again” (Curtis Mayfield), “I Want To Know What Love Is,” (Mick Jones) and “I Try” (Angela Bofill), so I figured she would sing most of those songs.

She did, but didn’t. Unfortunately, her performance was much of what I’d already seen. However, when you attend a Leela James show, you get to hear one of the most powerful and soulful voices out today.

Simply put, the woman can blow!

When she launched into James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s Man’s World,” I literally had to take a step back and catch my breath. She hit those notes and I’m sure James Brown was a proud man looking down from heaven.

She also sang “I’ll Take You There,” by the Staple Singers and “Simply Beautiful” by Al Green.

My favorite song by Leela is “My Joy,” which she performed. She also sang “Soul Food,” “Music,” and “Long Time Coming.” She ended the show with Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Leela’s show isn’t for “bourgeois” people (her words, not mine) and at one point in the show, she invited the audience on stage to dance with her. Of course my friend went; and I soon followed.

Before James Brown died, Leela said she had the opportunity to work with him. She said he told her he was passing the torch on to her and not to let soul music die.

She’s doing a good job making sure that doesn’t happen. I just wish her record company (formerly Warner Bros. and now the independent Shanachie Records) would do a better job of marketing her. She has a following and there’s no reason why Leela shouldn’t have released an album full of new material. I know we would love to hear it.

Hopefully it won’t be a long time before that happens.

Side note: Opening for Leela was Anthony David and Bilal. I haven’t really listened to music by either one (I know Anthony’s song “Words” and Bilal’s “Soul Sista”), but after seeing both perform live, I am now a fan of one and not impressed with the other.

I plan on buying Anthony David’s CD. Bilal, on the other hand, left me wondering what was wrong with him. I’ve always thought he sounded like D’Angelo, but during his performance, I realized he has nothing on D’Angelo and perhaps he should stay off of whatever he was on that night. He ended his set by placing the mic on the floor and walking off stage. Wow.

Upcoming concert alerts:

Erykah Badu & Mos Def, Sept. 4 at the Paramount Theatre, Oakland. Tickets range from $99.50 to $39.50.

Eric Benet, Sept. 3 & 4, Yoshi’s San Francisco. Tickets are $35.

John Legend & India Arie, Sept. 6, Greek Theatre on the Campus of U.C. Berkeley. Tickets range from $89.50 to $39.50.

Jaime Foxx, Oct. 10, 8 p.m., Sleep Train Pavilion. Tickets range from $93.75 to $48.75.

Maxwell (with Chrisette Michele and Common), Oct. 17, place and ticket prices TBA.


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