Review & Photos: Gregory Porter, Scarborough OAT, July 1

SINCE the release of his debut album back in 2010, American singer/songwriter and jazz sensation Gregory Porter has won two Grammy awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album and built a reputation as being a superb live performer.

His Scarborough date was one of only four UK shows of a tour that will see Porter on the road for the rest of the year, and it was easy to see why on the evidence of this show, his sublime voice and sunny outlook providing a real feel-good factor.

Admittedly, at first glance he does not look like your typical pop star, but like Tom Jones who appeared in Scarborough only last week, he possesses one of the finest baritone voices you could wish to hear. He also gives off the most positive energy with the beaming smiles he gives to both audience and his band members.

Wearing a pale green jacket and white trousers, and of course, his habitual Kangol hat Porter joined his band on stage at 8.30pm. While I often wonder how uncomfortably hot to wear that hat is, on a cool, drizzly evening in Scarborough he may have done a nice trade in them at the merchandise stall selling them alongside the rain ponchos.

Porter opened his performance with Holding On and I confess to be being immediately blown away when I heard the opening lines “Weight of love on my shoulders / I thought that it would be easier than this”. You know he has a great voice from his records but hearing its vibrancy and richness live for the first time was mesmerising.

Porter told the audience “C’mon y’all, let’s go to Harlem …” we boarded the A-Train with On My Way to Harlem , a love letter to the district with the lyrics dropping names along the way - “Marvin Gaye used to play what’s going on right over there / I so could use some of those blues from Langston Hughes”.

The singer then turned the spotlight on his 2016 Grammy winning release Liquid Spirit performing four songs from the album with Hey Laura and the title track, saying it was “My offering to the Gods of Water”.

An extended Musical Genocide featured some beautiful playing by bass player Jahmal Nichols and saxophonist Tivon Pennicott and meandered to take in excerpts from classic tunes like The Temptations’ My Girl and Papa Was a Rolling Stone.

Quite possibly the stand-out song of the evening though was No Love Dying, a song that acknowledges that threats like war, greed and racism never recede but offers defiance and positivity, “ Well the death of love is everywhere / But I won’t let it be / There will be no love dying here for me”.

Leaving the show I found myself wondering if Porter sounds so good in the chilly, damp, open air just how marvellous must he sound in a venue like the Glasshouse in Gateshead or Bridgewater Hall in Manchester? I’m looking forward finding out at some point.