Knitting Factory, Hollywood, May 22 2009 by Marian Castinado

I’d just been to the opera the night before, so the bar was set high for vocal quality when I went to see Paul Roberts at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. He did not disappoint. It isn’t often that live music impresses you with the tone and richness of the human voice; usually you’re lucky to get a booming beat and a barely audible lyric. But Roberts made the intimate crowd feel like they’d gathered with friends, only to intoxicate them with his siren song. Accompanied by Andy Ellis’ virtuoso guitar work, Roberts’ instrument was showcased, and no one missed a larger band. Though billed as “from the Stranglers,” [and obliging with favorites such as Golden Brown] Roberts primarily found himself fielding requests for his current Soulsec work. Roberts’ smooth and engaged delivery in “Under the Stars,” for example, tore listeners’ hearts with its weary memory of lost love. He’s not just mouthing the words; he’s reliving every moment, and it comes across in the sound. It’s rare that a club performance really becomes a personal connection, but Roberts brought depth as well as poignancy to each syllable: literally the voice of experience.

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