Jamie Lidell’s music has always been undeniably soulful and funky while still existing in a progressive and electronic realm — with a voice like his, it’s an inevitability — but with the forthcoming release of his sixth album, Building A Beginning (available October 14), it seems as though the British artist has fully embraced his most prominent influences via classic artists like Stevie Wonder. One need look no further than his recent performance at The Echo for evidence of this shift.

Photo: Ahmed “Boogie” D’Ala
Photo: Ahmed “Boogie” D’Ala

I’d be remiss if I didn’t immediately identify the fact that Lidell’s current tour is bolstered by the inclusion of his band The Royal Pharaohs, a ridiculously talented supergroup of musicians who helped bring the new tunes (as well as reinterpreted versions of some of the singer’s older material) to soul-clapping, spirit-invoking life.

The band may still be in its infancy as a combined collective, but a look at its components reveals why Lidell was wise to assemble his own funky Voltron for this tour. Comprising drummer Daru Jones (Talib Kweli, Jack White), backing vocalist Shonka Dukureh, keys player Gerald Jenkins, guitarist Marcus Machado (The Weather Report’s Victor Bailey), bassist Owen Biddle (The Roots), trumpet player Marion Ross III (Lianne La Havas, Jesse Boykins III), and percussionist Brandon Newsome, this group truly brought down the house as soon as they took the stage for their opening jam, a fittingly grooving live version of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” from the legend’s live show circa 1973.

Photo: Ahmed “Boogie” D’Ala
Photo: Ahmed “Boogie” D’Ala

At times, it seemed as though Lidell himself might be overshadowed by the sheer virtuosity of the musicians he shared the stage with, but it’s also important to remember that it’s pretty tough to overlook Jamie Lidell. An energetic frontman who’s able to maintain his impeccable chops while giving an entertaining performance, the singer led his crew through a set that leaned most heavily on songs from Building A Beginning. Older cuts like “Multiply” and “Another Day” also popped up, delivered in a style better suited to The Royal Pharaohs.

Photo: Ahmed “Boogie” D’Ala
Photo: Ahmed “Boogie” D’Ala

Delivering such an exercise in funk and soul is no easy feat. Doing so via a set of mostly yet-to-be-digested songs is also something of a challenge. But the packed house was along for the entire ride, and if early reviews are any indication, it seems as though Building A Beginning will be just as much of a blast to listen to on record as it was to experience in person.

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Jamie Lidell