"I'm gonna take you to Michigan Baptist Church!" - announces Singer Jacob Lusk after the Hymn "Love and Hate in Different Times". But his prayer stays short and direct. We should stick together with our neighbours and: "If you really love somebody - tell it to them every day!". Can I Get An Amen: the Gabriels captivate Berlin.
What is music capable of? Is it balm for the battered mind and body after a gruelling day's work or is it only offering temporary freedom from the intensified gaze of society? It is a rare kind of nourishment for a vague hope for a better world or a source of strength and euphoria to cross intellectual and emotional boundaries? What if a combo ticks all the boxes and more?
Musical history lesson
The old story of how pop and soul came out of gospel was seldom portrayed so overwhelming and engaging as by the artists tonight at the Columbia Theatre. The dance beat of their "hits" is only used rarely, which makes it all the more driving. The solemn singing, accompanied by piano and violin, dominates here. Because it's about pain - about love and rejection, disappointment and injustice. The song titles state this clearly: "Bloodlines", "Blame", "The Blind" or "Innocence". And the lyrics too: "Not a slave if I'm already free. Not a captive if it's where I want to be". That’s why there’s just no place for the usual assembly line of production with stacked and click tracks for a small, im-passionate massage of your ears - this is the real deal for the whole body and soul.
Gabriels - as if today's Billy (!) Holiday was diverted to the Paradise Garage on the way to the Conservatory of Music.
The Angels surely wanna wear his red shoes
But it could have turned out differently: singer and frontman Jacob Lusk was a member of the American Idol season eleven years ago and interpreted well-known songs by Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Elton John (now one of the biggest fans). A look at the press photos from that time makes it obvious: A career in musicals and stage shows would have been guaranteed. But that was obviously not enough. It is not known who convinced whom. But together with the soundtrack producers and arrangers Ari Balouzian and Ryan Hope, he reaches for something completely different from the 80s oldie show for boomers.
And surprisingly they don't fully rely on the exceptional voice but rather concentrate on telling stories in words and notes. This is not entertainment in today's more superficial sense - quite the opposite. Some songs are nearly too slow in today's standards to catch up with. They take the time they need. So the listener has to decide whether he or she is prepared to actually pay attention to recognize the full picture. Because listening to the songs keeps you on your toes. And if you prefer less captivating sounds, please look elsewhere or on your smartphone. It's the exceptional arrangements that Ari and Ryan spin which offer a deep and warm pond for Jacob's voice to swim and dive in. And a good swimmer he surely is.
On stage, he rather stands still, with the movements only in his arms and facial expressions. Right until the songs starts, that put them on the map: "Love And Hate In A Different Time". Here he spins and dances - much to the delight of the 140 people attending the gig in Berlin. Some even sing the words, probably because it was played on the capitals radio stations once in a while. A feature we can only dream of in sleepy Hamburg - but i digress.
In retrospect, it seems that it was kind of planned that Marvin's "What's Going On" floated through the hall shortly before their performance. And it is a
divine gigantic omen that the Gabriels do not fade in comparison. They can make you dance, sing, cry and smile - all at the same time. So if you are ready to sync with the Gabriels, you will enjoy their shows more like any other artist of today.
"Can It all be so simple then?", Jacob asks us in the closer "Professional". And we can only answer this borrowed line from "The Way We Were" with a sigh: Yes it is!
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This article was (obviously) written by a non-native speaker. So help me out if you've found a phrase that hurts your brain cells and should be changed. I will credit you at the end of this text. Thank you.