As with any musical movement, the key to survival for the “neo-soul” wave of the last several years, led by Alicia Keys, Nellie Furtado and India.Arie, is how well an act draws a crowd. The audience that filled the El Rey was as eager to be musically satisfied by Remy Shand as that in his current “Take a Message” video, in which he is seen playing to a skeptical, mainly black, aud at a nightclub. By the video’s end, he has won over the tough judges; in real life, he tried to present the goods in a steady performance as a multi-instrumentalist with the soul of Prince, the rock steady beats of Lenny Kravitz and the pop vision and intoxicating rhythmic touch of Stevie Wonder.
Shand faced the same scrutiny with Friday’s throng and will until his music penetrates further into the mainstream. His debut Motown Records album, “The Way I Feel,” is a sure-handed collection of personal insights into love and relationships, projected in a supple manner through his gritty, yet wiry tenor.
Its strengths lie in a mixture of those myriad elements into a seamless package of memorable hooks. The disc is a leading contender for next year’s awards shows.
Shand, clad in jeans and knitted cap, entrusted the re-creation of his music — all written, arranged and performed by him on the album — to his more than capable band, which kept the rhythms flowing (kudos to drummer Travassos) and the funk jumping throughout the 75- minute set. Shand seemed most comfortable and capable with an instrument in his hands.
His voice, full and powerful despite having performed earlier in the day on Steve Harvey’s morning radio show and Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show,” was treated as an equal to the instrumental accompaniment. It soared when needed and supported, along with the background vocalists, the many hooks to his songs.
His keyboard work, ranging from a raging church organ on “Colour of the Day” to cold funk on extended jams, offered ample evidence of his musical abilities. “Take a Message,” his current hit, was played in a straightforward manner with very little deviation, while “Rocksteady” revealed interesting ska and reggae influences.
When he stepped away from the keyboards, Shand launched into an extended guitar jam with his band and traded riffs with the audience. Encoring with “Burning Bridges,” a song about an awkward breakup, Shand left the audience with an assurance to return.
Remy Shand proved he’s more than capable of adding to this enveloping “neo-soul” trend, keeping it real and close to the street. Live, he passed the ultimate test of translating a refreshingly intimate style to a sure-to-grow congregation.