Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Concert Review: Bernhoft @ The Foundry - Philadelphia, PA 05/12/16

It all started in Norway with a Sly and the Family Stone album...

Jarle Bernhoft is as unassuming as a Grammy Nominated artist can be. His YouTube video for the single "C'mon Talk" went viral with 4.5 million views.  He's been a guest on most day time and night time talk shows and creates beautifully crafted R&B while hailing from Norway where an R&B scene doesn't really exist.  He is also a mutli-instrumentalist with a Philip Bailey-esque falsetto. Yet right now most of you have not heard of him,

Bernhoft creates R&B music in the classic sense with a modern take on it.  He hates to put parameters on R&B like "Blue Eyed Soul" and rightly so.  His new EP, Stop / Shut Up / Shout It Out emulates Daft Punk as much as it does Earth Wind & Fire. If music is done right and done well and transcends genre.  Bernhoft's new offering is as much Pop and Rock as it is R&B.  There is a sea of modern Soul and R&B performers doing what Bernhoft does. Mayer Hawthorne, Fitz & The Tantrum, and Allen Stone to name a few.  The defining difference is that Bernhoft has stayed true to form with his style of music.  His commitment is unwavering.  Love is a common theme but Jarle also throws down socially political commentary reminiscent of  Marvin Gaye's, "What's Going On".

I had heard the music but I had not seen the man perform.  This, sometimes, can make or break how I feel about an artist. Philadelphia was one of the few American stops on his tour this time around. Instead of performing his one man band he would have the Shudderbugs backing him up on stage. He would be playing The Foundry which is a 400 person capacity venue located on the second floor of the Fillmore Philadelphia.  A perfect venue for an artist like Bernhoft.  It's small, with great sound and ambiance out the ass.

The opening act for this show was Jonny P.  A retro, soulful crooner out of Nashville by way of the Bronx.  It was just Jonny P and his guitarist Godfrey on stage and that is all they needed.

Their 30 minute set went from soulful to funky.  It was fun to watch the crowd take notice and start to move.  Jonny was interactive with the crowd mentioning coming to Philly brought back a lot of great memories as a child visiting family who he failed to look up this time while he was in town.  He did look up a Cheesesteak which I would agree is more important.

The crowd moved and swayed with the set until the end.  Jonny P was the perfect opener for Bernhoft.  Next up would be Jarle himself.  The music before the set was filled with Stevie Wonder and James Brown.  The stage was ready but I really wasn't prepared for what I was about to see.

Bernhoft hit the stage with the opening track from his new EP, "Stop / Shutup".  The uptempo song dares you not to dance. It's impossible.  The first thing I noticed about Jarle was that he is a performer.  He's sexy, he plays to the audience, and he is an incredible musician.  Better than all that, if you hold up a camera he will look at you.

The Shudderbugs were a very capable backing band that complimented Bernhoft perfectly.  Their harmonies were downright insane.  As Jarle burned through his set it was obvious he was having fun.  You could tell that this is what it wall all about.

The sound was incredible.  In many ways the performance was better than a recording.  It added so much more to a two dimensional album.  And the albums are really fucking good.  That says a lot.  After "Freedom" he slowed it down a bit with "Don't Let Me Go" telling the crowd that it was a great song to dance to.

His performance is super expressive.  Everything that R&B should be.  He was leaving it all on stage. Every bit of emotion. Love.  Sadness.  Heartbreak.  We were seeing it all.

Nearing the end of the set Bernhoft played another track from the new EP called "Patience Revisited".  This performance solidified the night as he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. The 9 minute version of this song not only showed his incredible guitar chops but just how well he can work an audience. At one point during the song everyone started to sway back and forth in unison, except for me as I was videotaping with a GoPro.  We made eye contact and I smiled.  Jarle acknowledged with a chuckle.  He knew what he was doing.  He had us all in a trance.

Before we knew it the set was done but I wanted more.  We all wanted more.  We chanted until Bernhoft popped his head out of the side door to smile at the crowd.  Jarle came back out to the stage, by himself, and gave us a solo rendition of "Falter" that was chilling.

The three song encore ended with the crowd pleasing "C'mon Talk".  The crowd exploded.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect night.  I was entertained.  Beyond belief.  As we were leaving the merch table announced they had sold all but a handful of his CD's.  It was a performance worthy of a Grammy.

If Bernhoft makes it to your neck of the woods please go and see him.  Let him entertain you.  His new EP Stop / Shut Up / Shout It Out is available on iTunes and Apple Music.  Pick up a copy today.

See you when the needle drops!


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