Blue-eyed soul hatched on the other side of the Atlantic is one of the more offbeat hybrids to have emerged from pop music. As evidenced by this multi-generational program, it’s also proved to be one of the most enduring, revealing new facets when handed down from old-school to new.
Opener Joss Stone has received plenty of hype, mostly focused on her precocity. Between-song giggles aside, it was easy to forget that the 16-year-old — raised in rural England — was decades younger than many of the songs she and the headliner performed here.
Stone is gifted with a powerful voice, but just as importantly, she’s got a preternatural ability to use it wisely. Rather than rely on melismatic leaps, she aims for the gut — much like soul legend Betty Wright, who pitched in to work on Stone’s S-Curve debut “Soul Sessions.”
Clad unassumingly in jeans and sweatshirt, the lanky singer trod the boards like a road-revue pro, growling sultry passages and sugar-coating more innocent stretches. Stone did flaunt a flair for the unexpected, however, re-titling the White Stripes breakthrough hit as “Fell in Love With a Boy” and — in a reverse-image replication of the Stripes’ methodology — retooling the tune to sound like a Stax chestnut.
Despite Simply Red’s presence near the top of Lite-Rock radio playlists, Hucknall and company showed as much fluency in playing nice and rough as playing nice and easy. Nothing too over the top, mind you — a dab of surprisingly authentic dub reggae here, a genuinely funky backbeat there.
The latter element ebbed and flowed throughout the perf, percolating hazily beneath an extended take on the dole-life musing “Money’s Too Tight to Mention” and boiling over during “Something Got Me Started.”
Although the two-hour perf was ostensibly designed to support Simply Red’s self-released album, “Home,” Hucknall played up his back catalog — a wise choice given the unevenness of the new disc and the cravings of a fan base that’d gone five years without a visit from the band.
Some of the newer material — “Sunrise,” for instance — went down well, largely due to Hucknall’s still-supple vocals and kid-in-a-candy store enthusiasm for the stage. He’s still prone to making wrong turns in choosing covers, however, as manifested by a creaky version of Bob Dylan’s “Positively Fourth Street.”
Were Hucknall not still hitting on all cylinders, it would’ve seemed like a torch was being passed at this concert. In point of fact, the vibe was more that of a glow being shared — with teenager Stone bringing plenty of her own warmth to the party.
Joss Stone plays the Troubadour in Los Angeles on Thursday.