Amp Fiddler – The Social, Tuesday September 5
Detroit soul man Amp Fiddler earned his first break with George Clinton’s band in the 1980s. More recently, he has been building his reputation as a solo artist, thanks to 2004’s Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly – a “slow burner”, which picked up steady sales via word-of-mouth recommendations.
With his oversized white Kangol cap perched on top of his unruly Afro, Fiddler cuts a nifty, Sly Stone-esque dash on stage. Seated in front of his keyboards, with a four-piece band behind, he radiates an amiable, laid-back bonhomie which is matched by the uncommonly good-natured late twenties/early thirties crowd.
The band specialises in the sort of mid-paced soul/funk which was popularised by Stevie Wonder in the mid-1970s. It’s impeccably played, and suitably reverential to its roots. At its best, it tilts towards Jamie Lidell’s smoking future-funk. At its worst, it slides towards Jamiroquai’s samey blandness.
Fiddler’s vocal style is the weakest link. Although somewhat reminiscent of the great Bill Withers, his range is limited, and his expressive power weak. Instead, it’s left to the band to provide a solid, danceable groove. Unfortunately, the lack of variety swiftly palls.
In order to take things to the next level, Fiddler needs to add something fresh, rather than sheltering in retro stylings. The material from his new album, Afro Strut, could just as easily have appeared three years ago – or even fifteen years ago. Until then, he will have to be satisfied with playing to the converted at cosy, unchallenging gigs such as this.