Gregory Porter At The Mint

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By Will Dawson
Los Angeles

The line in front of the Mint in Los Angeles on Sept. 22 stretched around the block as fans put on their Sunday best to see GRAMMY-nominated artist Gregory Porter perform a rare live set in his hometown. Porter, who currently resides in Brooklyn, N.Y., finally made it back to the West Coast after months of touring in support of his latest project, Be Good, and Porter seemed determined to give those in attendance a jazz master class during his 90-minute set.

 Dressed impeccably in his trademark bowtie and tailored suit, Porter seemed larger than life as he stepped onto the same stage that has hosted GRAMMY winners such as Ray Charles, Natalie Cole and Stevie Wonder. The standing-room-only crowd seemed to energize him as he launched his set with the sprawling "Painted On Canvas," which was quickly followed by "On My Way To Harlem," an ode to the famous New York village that, as Porter explained, was inspired by walking its streets.

Porter, whose debut album Water was nominated for a Best Jazz Vocal Album GRAMMY in 2010, was happy to be home, even if only for one night. He reminisced between songs about growing up on 36th Street and Normandie Avenue on L.A.'s West side, singing in church and the singing group he formed with his siblings. He also recalled moving to the overly arid town of Bakersfield, Calif., and how hot it was. "It was 106 degrees at night, every night!" he exclaimed with a hearty laugh.

Porter is one of those unique artists who can have it both ways. His vocals are booming yet simultaneously soothing, all while effortlessly blending the genres of jazz and soul. His cadence, and the way he seems to glide over the beat of each song, using his voice as an instrument, is what makes him so good at what he does.

Highlights included "Be Good (Lion's Song)," a jazz-inflected waltz and serves as a cautionary tale about the perils of being trapped in a proverbial prison; the spirited "Real Good Hands," which details a man's attempt to convince his in-laws that his bride to be will be safe; and the rollicking anthemic "1960 What?" The latter elicited a call-and-response from the at-capacity crowd.

The set concluded with an encore featuring the ballad "The Way You Want To Live," which could have easily served as a theme for the night. The song details a person's need for someone to be there for them, to lift them up and to tell them they are loved.

His fans who gathered at the Mint that night did just that, welcoming the native son home, if only for one night.

Set List
"Painted On Canvas"
"On My Way To Harlem"
"Work Song"
"Be Good (Lion's Song)"
"Real Good Hands"
"Mother's Song"
"1960 What?"
"The Way You Want To Live"

To catch Gregory Porter in a city near you, click here for tour dates.

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