Concert Review: LHHATL-Featured Noel Gourdin Goes In At The Soul Factory

Affectionately known as “the little show that can,” Soul Factory’s monthly showcase featuring “Souled Out” live music at Drom features a variety of soul/neo-soul/R&B artists. For three months, I was the woman who couldn’t get her act together and get to a show – until Noel Gourdin hit the bill, that is.

Gourdin first got my attention back in 2008 when his debut album After My Time and it’s gospel-infused single “The River” put everyone on note that the R&B game had a new player in its midst. A guy whose Southern roots, church upbringing, and early exposure to soul music greats like Otis Redding seemed to have primed and prepared him for music industry success. With the 2011 release of Fresh: The Definition and its lead single “Beautiful,” Noel continued to gain fans and make a name for himself.

But it was a Love and Hip Hop Atlanta placement this past April – as part of Stevie J and Joseline’s tumultuous, love/hate storyline – that made my awareness and appreciation topple into obsession. Hearing “Don’t You Wanna” in the show for the first time, I thought it was actually R&B veteran Joe; it wasn’t until I checked the VH1 As Heard On site that I realized it was Noel who’d lit the wick in me that burns for good “groove to” music. Fast forward to this past Saturday’s Soul Factory showcase and I knew I had to be there, front and center, so I could see him perform “my song.” Right? Wrong.

 

Disappointed, I poked my bottom lip out and pouted mostly inwardly, but as buzz-worthy R&B singer John Michael and world soul music siren by way of Ethiopia Wayna took to the stage and performed, I was swept up into a musical movement that could take my mood no place else but up.

Noel was last to perform, and he opened up his set with “Brand New (Fresh)” to get the crowd grooving before introducing “Heaven Knows,” the lead single from his upcoming album out later this year. To the crowd, Noel presented himself like a wholesome guy who lives for the moments when he can cut loose and give himself permission to be bad. “Everyone raise their drinks and let’s toast to life and all the folks in here gettin’ lucky tonight. Lord knows I hope I do!” As he performed the steamy “Summertime,” I readied myself for him to do a “Miguel” onstage, but the talented vocalist was content to keep his sex play confined to some intensely syncopated hip thrusts and suggestive mic work. “I don’t have no childrens yet, but I’m practicing, ya dig?”

Gourdin soon teased the audience as he performed some of Usher’s “Nice and Slow.” Things got a little sexier as he confessed, “I’m 80 percent have sex, 20 percent make love, and 100 percent raunchy. That’s 200 percent I know, but I’m on a different scale.” Following the climactic performance of his Top 10 Billboard hit and self-proclaimed apology to women, “Beautiful,” Noel continued to bring the heat with the steamy “Wanna Get Close” and – taking us to the beginning of a musical journey that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon – closed out his set with “Down By The River.” After the show, I made my way upstairs for a meet and greet with Noel and got the perfect cap off to a great show: a warm hug, a great pic, and a few bars of “Don’t You Wanna” – the Love and Hip Hop Atlanta song I’ll be singing for the rest of summer, if not longer.