In some ways, Gregory Porter was made for the International Eisteddfod. The man whose music transcends was making his debut at the annual event. Bringing his sweet, smooth and soulful sound to a warm and pleasant Friday evening, Porter is the embodiment of the festival’s message of peace and love. It is little wonder that he was rapturously received by a cross-generational crowd that pretty much packed out the Llangollen Pavilion.
There is always a message behind his music, and his choice of songs here balanced nicely between songs of relevance and well-known hits. His most famed, Liquid Spirit, certainly encouraged audience participation on the hand clapping front. Hey Laura got the biggest cheer of the night on its introduction. It is his shifts in tempo and mood – including between these two songs – that make Porter’s set constantly fresh and teaming with life. It also makes the acoustic parts of his set – just him and Chip Crawford on piano – that much more powerful. His impromptu rendition of Nat King Cole’s (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons was especially moving. Contrast that with a toe-tapping rendition of Papa Was a Rolling Stone, and you begin to see the diversity of his set.
He also had time to offer some thoughtful and inspiring words that chimed perfectly with the Eisteddfod’s values. Porter is a great believer in the power of music. It brings people together. It is spiritual, emotional, physical. It is a great healer. It is a builder of bridges across divisions in society. It is what the International Eisteddfod aims to do. And Porter certainly honoured those things. He, along with his band, were exceptional. From the organist to the double bassist, the French horn player to the saxophonist, they were all on sparkling form. The standing ovation at the end was thoroughly deserved.
Gregory Porter never feels like a man who craves the limelight. He was completely absent from the stage at times, the band performing independently of him. The music is the star of the show. That humble and sincere belief is something that has won Porter legions of fans. It is also the reason his presence at the Eisteddfod was a perfect fit. A match made in heaven.