Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir Czehoski, Toronto, ON, March 22

Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir Czehoski, Toronto, ON, March 22
Photo: Kevin Jones
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While surely most of us have been exposed — if not in person, in film, television or on record — to the exuberant expression that is black American gospel music, few have undoubtedly ever witnessed the style through the eyes and creative hands of Irreverend James. Taking all of the riveting and rapturous characteristic elements of the faith-based style and pairing them instead with secular views and impressions, James and his Critical Mass Choir delivered a unique brand of technically impressive though somewhat unsettling "church" in front of a standing-room-only Czehoski crowd.

Deriding the follies and fallacies of life and religion, the crew of three singers, a smooth keyboardist and a tight rhythm section turned out old-time gospel jazz numbers with a political edge, at one point flipping Bad Religion's "American Jesus" and inviting the room to "Stomp the Devil Out" with a clap-and-hum audience participation routine. The whole presentation was wrapped in a rather entertaining theatrical pose, and while some of the religious comments weren't as clever as the band clearly felt there were, there was definitely some merit to the life issues tucked nicely into their lyrics.

By the show's end, James had clearly added to his flock as the band left the stage to a rousing round of applause from a crowd that had apparently found their type of religion