Exclaim!

Tanika Charles

Rivoli, Toronto, ON, March 13

Tanika Charles
8
Even if the spirited gentleman who jumped onstage — at Tanika Charles' behest — to join in for a charming rendition of the Zutons' "Valerie" was ultimately a good-natured plant, no matter. Odds are against it, but it doesn't alter the truism that Tanika Charles is a star. Canada at large just doesn't realize it yet.

The Toronto-born, Edmonton-raised soul vocalist and former back-up singer for Zaki Ibrahim and Bedouin Soundclash is a renaissance woman of sorts, a sassy storyteller who affects an easy-breezy stage presence, bringing a smooth "it seems like we didn't rehearse but we so obviously did" casual energy that carries her through a 70-minute set of original and cover material.

Her sound is best defined as Motown-inspired soul with subtle notes of rock, blues and postmodern hip-hop R&B. Her style is vocal dynamo, la Tina Turner in impression and atmosphere. Clad in a twinkling dress emblematic of her star potential, she emerged on stage with just a single guitarist. She seemed a tad vulnerable vocals-wise for the first three or four minutes of the show. But as the rest of the six-piece band (the appropriately titled the Wonderfuls) scampered on stage to accompany her, Charles put the show in top gear, powering the set with a note-perfect delivery and cool stage banter. Original tracks such as "SillyHappyWild," "Dancing with Your Ghost" and "I Am Your Woman" rubbed shoulders with Pink Floyd covers ("Money") and the aforementioned "Valerie."

Officially, Charles' discography is a bit on the light side, with only the notable What? What! What!? seven-track EP in 2010 to date. The sample size that was the comfortably packed Rivoli stands as testament that this fact needs to change. So at the end of the show when Charles let slip that she's at work on a new album (with production by none other than producer Slakah the Beatchild of the Slakadeliqs/Soul Movement fame), you realize that you wish it was in your iPod already.
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