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all words: Robb Scott
all photos: Priscilla Ledesma

Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green… Motown in general play inspiration to crooner Aloe Blacc who took the stage at Rock n Roll Hotel after recent drama at DC9 prompted a relocation. Many will recognize his track ‘I Need A Dollar’ which is the theme song for the HBO series How To Make It In America—for those totally unfamiliar, his sound is soulful, humble, and will remind you ironically, of Thanksgiving (the family and the food).


Opening for his ‘I Need A Dollar’ Tour was Maya Jupiter, an Australian rapper with a spitfire flow laid over a heavy accent. The MC definitely looked confident and was engaging on stage, however there just wasn’t much there to stimulate much emotion from the crowd. Upon ending her set, rather than disappear for the rest of the night as other artists often do, she got right to work at the merch table. This doesn’t say anything about her as an artist, but as a person, she was really nice and funny when we briefly spoke.


Back to the main attraction—I’d seen Aloe Blacc once before in Central Park, and it was evident that this guy embodies the music which inspires him. He appeared to have stepped right out of the sixties; opening with a cover of Al Green’s ‘Love and Happiness’ only drove the theme further.

Next up was a personal favorite, ‘You Make Me Smile,’ which is your everyday love song, but with the breath of fresh air that is Aloe Blacc’s Motown sound. As an ode to Michael Jackson, Aloe Blacc performed a down tempo cover of ‘Billie Jean.’ It was through this cover I first became acquainted with the singer; an in-studio performance of the track has gained much popularity in YouTube.


The night rolled on with ‘I Need A Dolla’ which ended in a mash-up with Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’. The ease in which the songs molded, if one lived under a rock for most of their life wasn’t familiar with Bob Marley, they would think it was just another part to the song. For mash-ups sake, this is great, however, this can be extended to describe the show as a whole.


Highlights of the night included an impromptu Soul Train line (which I must note provided the perfect opportunity to move from the WAY back, to stage territory), a Salsa-Soul jam session by his band the Grand Scheme, and the lady MC Maya Jupiter joining him onstage. Other tracks on the setlist included ‘I’m Beautiful’ and ‘Politician.’

Aloe Blacc delivered a solid show, but it would have been a very different experience had DC9 remained as the venue. Drawing from his catalogue of past and present tracks he provided something for fans new and old. During an encore, the audience got a bit of ‘Loving You Is Killing Me’ and ‘Miss Fortune,’ rounded out by a cover of ‘California Dreaming’ by The Mamas and The Papas. “If I can do anything tonight,” he proclaimed from the stage, “that would be to make you happy, so you can then spread the love to others.” Mission Accomplished, I’d say.

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