Yola, the six-time Grammy nominated singer from Bristol, UK has been wonderful every time I have seen her. On Thursday night, she was fantastic. Wearing a stunning black embroidered gold fringe dress, Yola (born Yolanda Claire Quartey) owned the stage. Her powerful voice made me realize her talents are at the Aretha Franklin and Anita Baker level. In fact, she covered the legendary singers during her set.
Yola started out playing several songs from her last year’s Stand For Myself album. She went back and forth playing her electric and acoustic guitar. Her tech helped her swap out instruments along with wrangling her long hair around the six strings. When she played Faraway Look from her debut album, I had to remind myself it was not a cover. The song is so timeless it sounds like a standard from the Great American Songbook.
Yola and two other band members played stripped down Country versions of Whatever You Want and Shady Grove using one mic. It’s a common practice with blue grass players, but uncommon with soul singers. Proving she could play multiple genres of music with ease. Yola sells Genre Fluid merchandise at her shows ($35 and a Genre Fluid t-shirt can be all yours).
Before playing Diamond Studded Shoes, Yola acknowledged the inspiration of the song was the footwear of former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May. This led to comments about her confusion with Brexit. Yola stated, “It’s like people don’t want to have access to good food.”
The encore included R & B classics Anita Baker’s Sweet Love and Yarbrough and Peoples’ Don’t Stop the Music. Yola is on the verge of skyrocketing to stardom. Her talents will be displayed on the big screen when she portrays Sister Rosetta Tharpe (one of the creators of rock and roll) in the upcoming Elvis movie starring Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker scheduled to be released in June.
Opener Jac Ross calmly walked on the stage and belted out Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come . His powerful soulful voice swept over the crowd and caught the attention of everyone in the theatre. Ross is from Live Oaks, Florida where he writes R & B songs and goes fishing. Ross continued to play classics such as The Animals’ Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood combined in with his originals Clean Slate, Saved, and Senses. His songs gave insight to his life as a former teacher and his daughter’s medical hardships. Ross changed things up playing along with a full band via his laptop. Although those songs were impressive, it was hard to compete with his remarkable voice and his self-taught keyboard skills. Ross’ interpretation of Donny Hathaway’s A Song for You was arguably better than the original. When Ross told the audience he only had a few songs left, someone in the crowd requested that he play ten more.
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one wearing gold fringe.