“Wednesday Morning Atonement,” the lead single and introduction track to Curtis Harding’s 2017 sophomore album, Face Your Fear, is a hypnotic stimulation of both the mind and the heart. Harding sings about a restorative hiatus and new promises he intends to keep. This song serves as a microcosm of Harding’s work overall: a cogent disguise of sexiness framed as an analeptic funk mover.
On Wednesday, March 21, Curtis Harding brought his peppery new age funk to Madison’s Majestic Theatre as part of his Face Your Fear Tour. Despite it being only the second show of his tour and the second performance since November of 2017, the Saginaw, MI native was seasoned, as if his days as Cee-Lo Green’s backup singer were a part of a different, lonelier timeline. The one he’s currently experiencing is near-immaculate.
The night started off with an opening set from Madison, WI four-piece “power pop” band, Heavy Looks. The crew played a sleek 40-minute set that included music from their 2015 release Waste It Right and their 2014 project Senses Growing Dull. The band did just enough to hold over the entertainingly-raucous crowd with “snappy tunes” and “sappy lyrics” en route to Harding’s prompt 9:00 p.m. arrival.
Harding was somewhat of a prophet appearing on stage. Éclat dripped from his aura as he strutted to the mic, leather jacket over shoulder, coffee cup in hand. After setting aside his belongings, Harding picked up his tambourine, a glistening tool that still looked heavily used (per the slices on the head skin) and addressed the crowd before quickly diving into his first song of the night, “Need My Baby.”
Following the first rendition was grooving and jiving, mixes featuring acoustic and electric jamming and even Harding accepting a shot of bourbon from one particular fan.
“Y’all are a beautiful audience,” he said, raising his shot in the air. “This one’s for you. Cheers!”
Highlights from Harding’s set includes “On and On,” “Go As You Are,” “Freedom” and “Heaven’s On the Other Side.” After a short trip off of stage at the end of his playlist, Harding returned to a echoing of hoots and hollers.
“I was going outside for a smoke but you motherfucker’s kept screaming and shit. I guess I got to play another song,” Harding said.
The Majestic witnessed, perhaps, an artist who could lead a charge of revival. With more and more artists including funk and jazz inspired sounds into their music (i.e. Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak and Kali Uchis are just three artists who have dabbled in experimentation with the genre), Curtis Harding seems like the perfect candidate to fuse tradition with his particular style and release it into the world as art.