London Brixton Academy

[a]D'Angelo[/a] is 100 per cent extraordinary, the definition of soul made flesh.

After about 45 minutes, he takes a dive into the crowd, into the kind of moshpit where fluorescent paper fans flutter above heads. He surfs a while, loses his microphone, loses his vest and, eventually, clambers back to the stage. Screams intensify. Now, he shadow boxes, flexes his stomach muscles, flashes devil signs. Still the band grind on, the backing singers darting behind him and keeping up the chant of [I]”Shit, damn, motherf—er”[/I], until he slings the mic stand down, picks it up again, snaps it in two and sends the pieces hurtling into the wings towards his roadie. Next: the drumkit. Punched and kicked cymbals one moment, fragments skidding off the riser soon after. Exit by darkness.

A pause, and he’s back, in a box-fresh new vest and working the most intense voodoo R&B you’re likely to see this lifetime. For, let’s make no (chicken) bones about it – [a]D’Angelo[/a] is 100 per cent extraordinary, the definition of soul made flesh. The spirits of [a]Marvin Gaye[/a] and [a]Al Green[/a], Sly Stone and James Brown, Bobby Womack and Prince haunt the stage tonight, but Michael D’Angelo Archer‘s uncanny gift is to channel the energies and individual talents of the textbook’s litany of heroes into his one taut, charismatic body.

At times, this epic revue has the air of homage, with the horn section hitting those clipped, JB’s-style stabs and the rest of the stellar band’s dozen players (including, bizarrely, bassist Pino Palladino, whose other current employer is one Richard Ashcroft) gliding through a seamless series of liquid funk jams. But this is no mere revivalism: like his most obvious contemporary – and sometime collaborator – Lauryn Hill, [a]D’Angelo[/a] has the skills to both respect and update his influences, to align himself to a classic soul pantheon and still sound contemporary.

It all begins, in deference to the ceremonies and mystique implied by this year’s wonderful ‘Voodoo’ album, with his band finding the itchy, looping groove of ‘Devil’s Pie’ dressed in black monk’s robes, cowls shadowing their faces. There is melodrama and high kicking, a slickly psychotic cover of Trouble Funk‘s ’80s go-go classic ‘Drop The Bomb’, and a constantly ecstatic, high-pressure atmosphere that holds fast for the entire two-hour duration.

And then, of course, there’s [a]D’Angelo[/a]. As he repeats the refrain of ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’ again and again and again and, yes, again while his band slope off one by one, resplendent in his fourth new vest of the evening, it’s apparent he’s one of those rarer-than-hen’s teeth soulmen who combine an earnest spiritual dimension with braggadocio-free sex appeal as effectively as their publicity claims. He gets it on, and on, and he never lets you, or himself, down. What else can you say? Shit. Damn. Motherf–r. Alright.