Bilal | City Winery | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Sept. 29-30, 8 p.m. 2015
Price: $34-$42
Soul singer Bilal Oliver carries on with his mercurial ways on the recent In Another Life (eOne). A bracing shift from the electronic feel of his last couple of records, the album leans toward a visceral, revisionist version of early-70s soul. It’s produced by Adrian Younge, a fetishist of the old-school sound who’s also worked his magic on releases by Ghostface Killah and Delfonics singer William Hart. He plays almost everything on In Another Life, and while the results can sometimes be lumpy, he proves a good fit for Bilal’s restless, eclectic aesthetic. The singer projects a cosmic look on the back cover, and literally imagines himself observing the cruelty of humankind from outer space on the gripping single “Satellites” (“Watching the corrupt people / As they corrupt other people”). But by and large the songs are set in the bedroom—or at least that’s where Bilal wants them to end up—as he throws out a mix of come-ons, pushbacks, and promises of ecstasy (on “Pleasure Toy” he compares his erotic effectiveness as a singer to a vibrator). Bilal first emerged at the turn of the century as a would-be star of the mighty Soulquarians crew, but he’s made an art of snuffing out expectations, and while he calls himself a jazz singer, his performances usually extend beyond jazz or even soul. And despite cameos from stars like Kimbra and Kendrick Lamar, Bilal seems committed to the fringe—or at least he refuses to be filed under a single category, a quality I wish more current R&B singers would embrace.
— Peter Margasak



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