Wednesday 2nd March 2016
Leicester Square Theatre, Leicester Square, London, United Kingdom
I first came across Shaun Escoffery in September 2015 during the annual BBC Radio 2 Festival In A Day. The lineup for this event is a healthy mix of established stars and rising artists and he was one of the performers on the main stage. Shaun’s funky band and silky smooth voice was well-received in the beautiful surroundings of Hyde Park and at the time I remarked to the other members of my party ‘I’d definitely see him live again.’
Fast forward a few months to early March 2016 and I am sat in the comfortable and intimate Leicester Square Theatre in the heart of central London. This is a special one-off headline concert for Shaun Escoffery and it is completely sold out.
At a quarter to eight the house lights dimmed and instead of having the band all arrive onstage at once they decided to have each band member come on one at a time and it was really classy. The six-piece band treated us to a funky instrumental before Escoffery entered to loud cheers. Wearing all black attire and a pristine white suit jacket Shaun went straight into ‘Perfect Love Affair’, a song which is very popular on BBC Radio 2 at the moment. This song features beautiful flute which was provided by his multi-talented female backing vocalist.
This band were so musically tight and fluid that to me they sounded like Motown Records sessions musicians! ‘Nobody Knows’ from Shaun’s latest album ‘In The Red Room’ is my favourite song of Shaun’s because it has echoes of The Isley Brothers and the Santana-esque electric guitar solo from Rob Harris was flawless.
One thing that some people may not know about Shaun Escoffery is that as well as his own solo career he has also performed in musical theatre including the role of Mufasa in The Lion King. His time in musicals has put him in good stead as it has allowed him to create great stage presence especially when he makes some shapes on stage!
The keyboardist plays a solo that is like the sort of sound you would hear in a late-night jazz piano bar and it compliments Shaun’s smooth lead vocals perfectly. I could tell that Shaun was not only humbled by the audience’s reception but also genuinely honoured to be onstage with such fine musicians. ‘This is a new one that will be coming out on my new album. It is a duet with Joss Stone one the album.’ The song was entitled ‘Evergreen’ and was well-written completely with radio airplay in mind. The electric bass on this number was hypnotic and I think this will do very well when it is officially released.
Another new song ‘Barricades’ featured electric guitar that reminded me of The Shadows whilst ‘Do U Remember’ featured acoustic guitar which suited the song down to the ground as it gave it a very mellow feel. One song that is a jewel in Shaun Escoffery’s material crown is the warm ‘People’ which is about the madness in the world. It is a modern 21st century take on The Isley Brothers ‘Harvest For The World’ and it does fill your heart with a warm feeling.
As soon as the two words ‘Space Rider’ were uttered the crowd went mad and jumped up from their seats for dancing. ‘Space Rider’ is one of his classics and was the first single he released in the early 2000s and it was quite simply a funky galactic journey that took everyone with him.
‘Hold On Tight’ had a Spanish acoustic approach that was well-placed in the set after the upbeat ‘Space Rider’ and Shaun’s vocals hone on ‘Trouble’. ‘Nature’s Call (also from ‘In The Red Room’ on Dome Records) is clearly a live favourite amongst his fans and the electricity in the room during ‘Days Like These’ was electric.
When Shaun and the band left the stage everyone began chanting ‘We want more!’ When they returned to grand applause they performed ‘Who Is he? Who Is He To You?’ which was an incredibly dark song with stunning delivery. I was impressed with this cut because it clearly showcases both sides of Escoffery’s work and his strong abilities as a live performer.
I will admit that at times I found that I couldn’t hear Shaun when he was talking to the audience and naming his band but that is really my only criticism of the evening as the sound was great during the set itself.
‘So I was in this rehearsal studio at 10am preparing for a special show for the great Burt Bacharach. He then arrived and I had to perform one of his songs in front of him! This was the song.’ Then with just his keyboard player, Shaun began a magical take on the classic ‘A House Is Not A Home’ and you could hear a pin drop as the audience soaked in this special moment. An absolute soul masterclass.
He made the point of thanking his entire band and the lovely audience and then went to the foyer to sign CDs and the signing queue was huge!
Overall, Shaun Escoffery is an incredibly friendly and down to earth individual who is fortunate to have a remarkable band and the radio-friendly songs to match. I am looking forward to his new album which will include the song ‘Evergreen’ and I would definitely see this soul superstar again. If you love the music of The Temptations, The Meters, The Chi-Lites, The Isley Brothers or Keith Sweat then Shaun Escoffery will be right up your street.
Shaun Escoffery’s latest album ‘In The Red Room’ is out now on Dome Records. For more information you can follow Shaun Escoffery on Twitter here: http://bit.ly/1SkRRCK
Images: Kieran White at KW MEDIA
(Many thanks to Stuart Bennett at Deacon Communications for all of the help with this review, Kieran White at KW MEDIA, Pete Sargeant, Senbla, and Leicester Square Theatre.)