Boston based musician Eli “Paperboy” Reed is here in London for the launch of his fifth album, the Gospel influenced album “My Way Home”. He’s steeped in the Soul / Gospel tradition of artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and The Staples Singers and maybe he’s just a man out of sync with the times as he’s previously been signed to Capitol and Warner Brothers and it’s clear that these bigger labels just don’t know how to market, position or sell what he’s doing.
He’s backed by a three-piece band, drums, bass and organ and Eli plays guitar. As it’s an album launch, tonight’s set is made up of several songs from the album. He’s spent some time teaching at the “Gospel For Teens” project in Harlem, instructing young people in Gospel’s rich traditions and history, and his album of self-penned cuts reflects that kind of raw spiritual fervour. Songs like “Cut Ya Down”, “A Few More Days” and “Hold Out” reflect this kind of raw emotion, with Eli frequently squealing and screeching as part of his energetic and powerful performance.
The audience in turn respond to this energy with great enthusiasm and each song ends with heartfelt applause. It’s an uptempo, danceable show delivered by a musician who knows how to entertain a crowd. He ends the set with “Take My Love With You”, his 2008 classic that sound like it could have some out on Stax in the Sixties.
For an encore, the band assemble as a barbershop quartet, huddled around a single microphone to sing one last song acapella. A great ending to a great show.