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CARLTON J. SMITH PERFORMS
THE MUSIC OF OUTKAST AND GNARLS BARKLEY
BB KING’S SUPPER CLUB NYC March 24, 2007

Reviewed by Evan Ginzberg

 


 

"Crazy" is the name of Gnarls Barkley’s huge hit single.

And crazy pretty much sums up some of what went down at Carlton J. Smith’s show at BB King’s Supper Club last night.

Now I’ve seen Carlton perform there a dozen or so times. And I’ve loved each and every one of this pure soul singer’s always uplifting gigs.

But this one was particularly memorable - for better and for worse.

You see, this wasn’t a “Carlton crowd.” When he asked how many people in the audience had seen him at the venue, a mere fraction of the audience shouted in acknowledgement. This was, seemingly, a younger audience that was there for the music of Outkast and Gnarls Barkley.

And musically adventurous, one table wasn’t. They were here for a hip hop show which this, as Carlton explained, simply wasn’t.

So when Smith opened with some P-Funk and explained that these and other great R&B acts were the links that led to Outkast, this crew “just wasn’t having it.” One rather large “gentleman” actually stood up angrily between numbers and asked how an Outkast tribute show didn’t have any Outkast numbers. Being that it was maybe fifteen minutes into the gig, he wasn’t exactly showing patience.

Or class.

Heckling ensued and Carlton tried to defuse the situation by actually having the loudmouth come up on stage. Claiming to be a rapper, he froze like a deer in headlights, and Carlton quickly had him sit back down.

I guess his looking like an idiot in front of his cronies didn’t help matters, as they continued their harassment.

Well, “Soul Brother Number New,” didn’t take too kindly to his show being disrespected, and once again he went after them, only this time with gloves off.

Things got real ugly, real fast, with threats actually being thrown at Carlton who responded by mocking their clothes and telling his adversary he’d “steal his girlfriend.” Luckily they left (or were removed) soon after. But New York’s soul ambassador himself admitted, “A negative vibe” had fallen on his show and, frankly, it felt like things were in damage control mode.

Now I have no respect for narrow-minded people who aren’t open to a brilliant performer taking a song and “making it his own.” And Carlton did just that time and again last evening. "Miss Jackson," for example, opened powerfully with one singer’s lament about her real life former domestic abuse situation. And being the professional that he is, Carlton did eventually pull things off; folks were happily dancing to "Crazy" and "Sex Machine." But at the end of the night when I asked my girlfriend, a buddy and my buddy’s date “What did you think?” answers varied from “Carlton sabotaged his own show and should have ignored them” to “I’m glad he stood up to those guys.”

The unpleasant confrontation had, unfortunately, taken away from the brilliant music and this master showman.

Smith called this show “an experiment.” Whether or not Dr. Frankenstein had created a monster or Dr. Funkenstein made a masterpiece is debatable.








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