all words: Robb Scott
all photos: PHOTOLEER

For the second time in six months, Aloe Blacc returns to DC to play the Rock And Roll Hotel. This time, instead of Maya Jupiter, the Orange County bred crooner brought along fellow Los Angeles act Tutu Sweeney and The Brothers Band.

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Playing a disappointingly short set, openers Tutu Sweeney and The Brothers Band gave us a six song introduction to their version of pop-soul. I was reminded much of Maroon 5 with their sound and lyrics, with a slight mix of Jason Mraz. What sets them apart from both those acts is their infusion of a slight island feel, albeit a country-esque selection they played.

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Tutu Sweeney appeared quite comfortable on stage, taking moments to provide short intros to their songs, give shout outs to his fellow Ethiopians in the building, and make everyone feel comfortable. My one criticism of Sweeney would be his vocals—while he does have a nice voice, when he decides to drift into falsetto, he doesn’t fully commit and it comes off as lazy. This had me seeing such moments as unnecessary, as they already sound quite impressive cohesively.

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Aloe Blacc was welcomed to the stage by the applause of a sold-out house, joined by a five-piece band complete with sax and a trumpet. He begun by name-dropping his inspirations: Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Al Green—their styles are very evident in not only Blacc’s sound, but his appearance as well. This is what I’m most attracted to by the singer; he’s a dandy at heart.

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Having seen him live twice before, I’ve become familiar with the set up of his show: a run through of his most popular tracks (“I Need A Dolla” and “You Make Me Smile”), some only the fans will be aware of (“Femme Fatale” and Green Lights”), and a few covers for good measure. Unfortunately, the only cover came in the form of his slowed down interpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” during the encore. It was truly a shame, because those moments are where Aloe Blacc shines brightest.

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What I wasn’t expecting, though wasn’t surprised by either, was the impromptu Soul Train line mid-way through his set. As I remember from his last stint at the RnR Hotel, this was the opportunity for those in the far back to receive a free-pass to come join the rest of us at the front. Unlike last time however, the crowd was less inspired to groove and let loose—it was kind of embarrassing that barely anyone actually joined in on this moment of the show.

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Aloe Blacc made the assertion early on that he and his band were there to “make love in the form of music” and that we were there to “make love in the form of attention”—the two together should vibrate… and that’s exactly what occurred. While I wasn’t as impressed as I was last time I saw him, I could tell there was an obvious growth in his stage presence, and that’s what truly matters.

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Aloe Blacc’s sophomore album, Good Things, is available now on iTunes. As for Tutu Sweeney and The Brothers Band, youtube is your best bet for the time being.

Setlist

  • You Make Me Smile
  • Hey Brother
  • Femme Fatale
  • Green Lights
  • Good Things
  • Miss Fortune
  • If I
  • Politician
  • I Need a Dolla

Encore

  • Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover)
  • Loving You Is Killing Me

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