JULLY BLACK with RAY ROBINSON as part of get soul at the Reverb, April 22. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 100. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It's depressing doing an initial headcount of the attendees at Get Soul , the urban music showcase of Toronto's sixth annual Get Reel Festival, and reaching the scant total of 45, give or take those at the Reverb bar and in the bathrooms. Opener Ray Robinson had everything down pat, including R&B vocals as crisp as his Eric Benet-like threads. But he was getting more feedback from his microphone than from audience members, seated passively at candlelit tables. I'd criticize him for failing to spark much crowd participation, but there just wasn't enough crowd to participate with.
Upstairs at Holy Joe's , the smaller bar inside the Reverb, an even tinier showcase featured the eight young MCs of Mississauga's Underskore Entertainment crew having a good time spittin' smartass lyrics. The talented up-and-comers told their audience of 12 or so to throw their U's (hands formed into the letter U) up, plainly as yet unscathed by jadedness.
The headliner was singer/songwriter and four-time Juno nominee Jully Black , who's been proudly rocking the soul circuit for nearly a decade but has yet to drop an album. (Release of her debut, I Traveled, is pending.)
By the time she got onstage there were maybe 60 people listening.
"There could be 10,000 or two people here tonight and it wouldn't matter," Jully declared, poised, "because music is the language we all speak."
She invited people to her "island," a small area before centre stage, and proclaimed that she'd be performing only to them.
Jully's pitch-perfect vocals, gospel-powerful with a Mary J-like rasp, bolstered by her magnetic stage presence and proficient band, produced an uplifting set of tunes, from the Nas-borrowed The Things You Do to I Traveled, a stirring ode to her single mother.
Jully had to shut up the stupid chatterboxes at the bar: "Everybody talking in the back, reverence for my 68-year-old mother, please!"
Reverence for the whole show was in order.