Joel Culpepper brings down the house for his debut headline show at The Jazz Cafe
After seeing Joel Culpepper support The Cuban Brothers earlier this year, we knew that we’d have to catch him performing again - that set alone blew us away...
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Unsurprisingly, Joel Culpepper’s first headlining gig at The Jazz Cafe was a sell-out show. There is already a huge following for the rising star and this felt like a taste of the success Joel has yet to come. Supporting Mr Culpepper was R&B/soul singer Jaz Karis, an excellent choice to open the evening’s performance. Jaz’s pleasantly soft vocals and mesmerising soul tracks were a great warm up to get people in the mood, playing her songs ‘Pretty Lover’ and ‘Sugar Don’t Be Sweet’, as well as a gorgeous cover of Daniel Caesar’s ‘Get You’. Jaz Karis is one to keep your eyes and ears on, with new music on it's way...
The main act of the evening entered the stage to a full band intro and jumped straight into ‘Far From Your Average’, a James Bond-esque soul number (Culpepper would be a strong contender to do the next bond theme). Joel Culpepper’s powerful presence, combined with a live horn section, instantly showed the crowd why he is so renowned for his live performances. The man is a born performer, great dancer, has an impressive vocal range (with the ability to emulate Prince), and talks so comfortably with the crowd when hyping everyone up.
Joel Culpepper can get a crowd dancing and singing at the click of his fingers. The singer knows how to hold an audience, engage with them, and entertain, using every element on stage he has at his disposal. This includes getting his kit off - the man loves a topless boogie, don’t we all?
The setlist consisted of older tracks from his first EP Skydive, including ‘Big’ which is one of our faves, and more recent material from his debut album Tortoise. Culpepper went on to provide some backstory for the track ‘Mr and Mrs Brown’, he previously worked in a school and one of the students he supported had been excluded whilst Joel was elsewhere, despite desperately defending this kid the school still went ahead with that exclusion - this song is his apology to those parents, what a sweetheart.
As expected of The Jazz Cafe, the sound was on point, which is important in such an intimate setting with so many different musicians and instruments on stage (particularly when the choir joined for ‘Mr & Mrs Brown’). To have the sound so close to you makes live music a much more immersive experience - every instrument can be picked out and seen relatively clearly on stage.
There were some new tracks teased by Joel ahead of his forthcoming album and also as a featured artist, in particular ‘London Fields’ with DJ Yoda - who made a surprise appearance on the decks. We’ve loved DJ Yoda since stumbling across his set at Bestival 2014, playing an eclectic mix of classics, obscurities, and remixes of theme tunes - his Stranger Things AV set at Glastonbury Festival’s 360° Gas Tower in Shangri-La was a wonderfully unique experience. With some new material on the way, we already cannot wait to see Joel Culpepper perform again and if this was just a taste of what is to come...this guy is going to be headlining festivals.