Gallant is the next soul superstar

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Gallant played two knockout performances for small crowds at Bluesfest 2017. Those crowds won't be small for long.

He’s already a big deal in the US. Grammy nominated, millions of views on YouTube, critically acclaimed and quickly filling up big venues across his homeland. But the barely quarter-full tents at Gallant’s first two Bluesfest performances show that 26-year-old is yet to make the same waves in Australia.

After witnessing these performances, it seems certain that this won’t be the case for long.

He stumbles around the stage with a towel on his head, his jacket half off, looking lost and confused.

From top to bottom, this is world-class stuff. It’s as good a show as any R&B artist is putting on right now.

Christopher Gallant does things with his voice that seem practically inhuman. He hits notes higher than seem humanly possible and

There are shades of Michael Jackson, of Prince and of Stevie Wonder when he sings. He nails those notes but imbues everything with emotion. He’s slick but soulful. 

After having heard his debut album, the quality of his voice isn’t a complete shock. But the thrill and magnetism of his live performance is. It’s astounding.

He dances constantly, but in a free form, expressive way. There's no choreography here. It's the kind of dancing you'd do alone on your living room after three Rieslings. 

He's having fun, he's feeling his music and he's offsetting how damn perfect it is by injecting his personality. Usually an artist’s dancing wouldn't mean a whole lot in the context of a show, but it's a huge part of the appeal here. 

At one point in his Thursday night performance, he stumbles around the stage with a towel on his head, his jacket half off, looking lost and confused. It goes on for two minutes. It's so charming, interesting and a refreshing change from the tiresome "everybody throw your hands in the air" shtick that so many other artists employ at festivals like this.

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Gallant at Bluesfest 2017. Photo by Steve Ford.

The three-piece band he has behind him is outrageous. They’re tighter than a tied test match and all bring their own distinct touch to Gallant’s songs.

Keyboardist Dani Ivory is the standout. Her synth sounds are usually warm and familiar. Sometimes they sound straight from a Hall and Oates single, at others they're more modern, giving us that woozy rush so typical of modern R&B.

They provide all the texture these songs need, meaning guitarist Dylan Jones just needs to add colour. She is also one hell of a singer, as demonstrated in ‘Skipping Stones’, where she nails the part Jhené Aiko plays on the record.

AJ Novak’s drumming is intense and proficient – if not a little too showy at times – and the light show that accompanies the performance is of stadium proportions. Gallant is ready for the next level, and it seems certain he'll be there soon.

 

Gallant has earned praise from Elton John, Quincy Jones, Seal, Zane Lowe and countless other huge figures in music. His first Australian performances make it clear why they are on board. Don’t expect shows on his next visit to be so intimate. Once word gets around, everyone will want a piece of Gallant. 

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