Photo: The Recording Academy
Goapele At World Cafe Live
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By Ashley Coleman
Philadelphia has a tendency to adopt any artist that spends significant time in the area, so I was surprised to discover that Goapele was from Oakland, Calif. But since Philly is a town with a rich history of soul and R&B, Goapele took the stage at World Cafe Live on Aug. 15 to a warm and receptive crowd.
Touring in support of her most recent release, 2011's Break Of Dawn, Goapele kicked off her set with "Love Me Right" from 2005's Change It All. A mid-tempo track, Goapele shuffled around the stage while conjuring energy from the crowd. Her voice was pure and delicate as she moved through "First Love" and then "Milk & Honey" from Break Of Dawn. Once the band played the opening chords to "Tears On My Pillow," a slow ballad about a relationship that has slipped away, the crowd erupted with applause. Exuding a sweet vulnerability in her delivery, I found myself lost in the song.
As Goapele politely stepped to the side of the stage with a smile that said "something amazing is about to happen," guitarist Nate Mercereau stepped forward to perform a funk- and blues-infused solo. Moving back to center stage, Goapele gracefully performed Hugh Masekela's "Soweto Blues," a blues/jazz song that mourns those who lost their lives in the 1976 riots Soweto, South Africa. Goapele explained that having a father of South African decent connected her to the apartheid struggle.
"Children as little as 7 were fighting to be able to speak their own languages [and] read their own books," she explained.
Also a social activist, Goapele performed other socially charged songs, including Bob Marley's "Concrete Jungle." Next was a cover of "Giving Him Something He Can Feel," which was originally composed by Curtis Mayfield and performed by Aretha Franklin in the 1976 version of Sparkle. Goapele announced she makes a guest appearance in the remake of the film, which stars Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston. Goapele also performed "Running," an original song featured on the Sparkle soundtrack.
During the sensual, Caribbean-flavored track "Romantic," Goapele gave Mercereau more face time with the crowd. As his dirty blonde hair flowed along with his guitar solo, I almost forgot I was at an R&B show. "Closer" was the song I had been waiting for all night. As she moved through the song, Goapele echoed relatable sentiments of "getting closer to her dreams," something we can all relate to.
Excited to see her full show for the first time, I was extremely satisfied. With a powerful voice that delivers meaningful lyrics, Goapele left the crowd wanting more. Giving her fans what they wanted, Goapele came back and ended with the beautiful Etta James classic "At Last."
To catch Goapele in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
"Love Me Right"
"Milk And Honey"
"Tears On My Pillow"
"Soweto Blues" (Hugh Masekela cover)
"Concrete Jungle" (Bob Marley cover)
"Giving Him Something He Can Feel" (from the original 1976 film Sparkle)
"At Last" (Etta James cover)
(Ashley Coleman is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. Starting out as a GRAMMY U member in 2006, Coleman is currently the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Philadelphia Chapter.)