Cee Lo Green, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Friday 01 April 2011
Given his career has lasted well over 15 years, it has been an odd path to mainstream recognition for Cee Lo Green. First playing a key role in developing the dirty South rap style as a founding member of the Atlanta hip-hop crew Goodie Mob, he went on to release two inventive, but low-selling, solo albums before teaming up with
the producer Danger Mouse for their Gnarls Barkley project.
Yet it is his third solo record – last year's The Ladykiller – that has seen him gain the public's attention on his own. A pure pop-soul album, it capitalises on his impressive pipes and appealing personality as well as his considerable talent for writing a catchy tune (The Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha" is one of his contributions to modern music).
Tonight, just in case anyone present has not cottoned on to the tongue-in-cheek concept of his new approach, his band consists of four female musicians, all dressed in tight clothing who strike various poses around him throughout the set. Green himself is in rather more casual attire, although the large bejewelled crucifix around his neck provides a tough of glamour.
Still, with that voice, there is little chance of him being inconspicuous, even though the sound levels are rather murky. His singing on previous dates in this tour around the UK has reportedly been affected by a cold, but there seems little sign of that tonight, as he barely stops between booming out each song with apparent ease.
The problem is, however, that his set could do with a few more moments of subtlety. He may have produced a party album, and a cracking one at that, but when even Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" – perhaps his best-known song previously – is speeded right up, there is a yearning for a change in tempo.
Quieter moments do come in the encore, after he has left the stage for the first time following a riotous performance of his breakout hit "Fuck You!". When he returns, it is for a semi-acoustic version of "It's OK", which benefits hugely from his vocals being given room, before he rather bizarrely finishes with a verse and a chorus of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day".
It does act as a reminder that there is more to Green than what has been seen tonight. These are his first shows – at least on these shores – in his new guise so it is fair enough that they are focused on his new sound. Still, given that he is a man with a number of strings to his bow, next time round he will hopefully delve a bit further into both his back catalogue and his considerable talents.
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