LIVE: The Revelations @ Club Helsinki, 9/7/12

Review by Fred Rudofsky

When B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, RZA and Nona Hendryx count themselves as fans, a band must be doing something right. Brooklyn’s the Revelations (featuring Tre Williams) brought a whole lot of soul to a Friday night at Club Helsinki in Hudson, their second time playing the area’s best live music venue in 2012.

Though it drew a moderate-sized crowd compared to the last time in Hudson, the Revelations played some electrifying music right from the start, dipping into the Hi Records canon with “Take Me to the River.” Bassist Ben Zwerin and drummer Gintas Janusonis locked into an infectious rhythm, Adam Klipple stirred up some Memphis stew on the B-3, and Wes Mingus played his Telecaster with energy and taste. Tre Williams stepped up to the microphone, and it was star time.

What makes this band so impressive are its love of classic soul and blues and desire to make a dent with its own material. With two albums in the past three years, the Revelations have a growing repertoire of original songs. “Graceful Bow” and “Because of You” from 2009’s debut The Bleeding Edge were early standouts in the set, showcasing a band with serious chops and a vocalist who gets to the heart of the lyrics. Shifting the blues medley of “Goin’ Down Slow”/ “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” up
to an unexpectedly faster tempo was daring and worth the pay off. Williams recalled the night many years ago when he got to meet and sing with Latimore, then sat on the edge of Club Helsinki for a great take on his idol’s classic “Let’s Straighten It Out.” Offering a testimony to his own 20-year marriage, Williams served up a depiction of living on the margins, a thumping “Something’s Got to Give,” from 2011’s Concrete Blues.

Acknowledging the greatness of his band, Williams announced he was going to join the audience for the next song as a fan, and grabbed a seat at a table in the sweet spot of the venue. The Revelations whipped up a cooking rendition of Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down,” generously showcasing guitar, keys, bass and drums in that order. A woman in the audience exclaimed, “It’s getting HOT in here!” as the instrumental concluded and Williams rejoined his band for William Bell’s plaintive “I Forgot to Be Your Lover.”

Tight-knit harmonies to “Everybody Knows” had the audience singing along by the second chorus. Inspired, Williams decided to share his life story of struggle and redemption in the next song, “Trouble Man” – like a preacher he stepped out onto the dance floor and drew everybody in that much closer. Back up on the stage, he offered the seduction blues of “Until You Get Enough of Me” and followed that with a tale of a man learning the hard way that his lady has hit the streets in “I Don’t Want to Know.”

“This song is about you!” announced an exuberant Williams prior to “Stay Free,” a rousing Motown-styled song that filled the dance floor for several minutes; “I want to welcome you all/ To my way of expression/ Tell your friends when I’m gone/ You’d never seen such depression/ I’ve got this down to perfection!” Williams half-sang, half-rapped in mid-song. The band seemed to levitate with smiles and laughter all around; the riffs got deeper and funkier and even the few wallflowers left in the room quickly pumped their hands in the air to the syncopated beat.

The encore, Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”, was an equally compelling performance which inspired couples to slow dance the night to a close, and no doubt look forward to the next time this talented band comes to town.

Take Me to the River (Al Green)
Graceful Bow
Because of You
Goin’ Down Slow/ Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
Let’s Straighten It Out (Latimore)
Something’s Got to Give
Root Down (Jimmy Smith)
I Forgot to Be Your Lover (William Bell)
Everybody Knows
Trouble Man
Until You Get Enough of Me (Ronnie Lovejoy)
I Don’t Want to Know
Stay Free
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City (Bobby Bland)

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