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ANDRIA SIMONE at Woodbine Park, Saturday, July 19. Rating: NNN
The first Saturday of the Beaches International Jazz Festival was far wetter than anyone would have liked. But Torontonians are good sports. For Andria Simone's 3 pm show at Woodbine Park's main stage, a healthy crowd crammed in underneath the beer garden tents, and a steadily growing smattering of umbrellas dotted the field.
Simone and her five-piece band, Those Guys - tight, proficient and never overpowering their singer - play crowd-pleasing retro soul that is well-suited for a daytime gig at an outdoor festival such as this one. But, I couldn't help but wish I was seeing them late at night in a small, sweaty club.
The T.O.-born-and-bred singer was drily funny onstage - asking the audience for a hairbrush, or a beer, or trying not to swear (for the kids!). She also attempted to coerce the spectators out of their chairs, but the weather and the fenced-off gap between the stage and the crowd initially hindered a real feeling of connection between artist and audience.
But, the band made pumping out R&B anthems look easy. Simone's rich and powerful pipes are more raspy, gritty and rock 'n' roll than on her polished latest album, Good Lovin', which leant itself to the different genres they tried out during their set: a cover of Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love, a reggae tune, Stevie Wonder's Superstition.
Eventually, the singer got her wish: some kids who didn't mind getting wet let loose up front, and a couple slow-danced in the beer gardens.
Oh - and the artist live-painting the scene on stage-left was a really cool touch, too.
Beaches International Jazz Fest goes until July 27.