Goapele The Hoxton, Toronto ON, December 9

Goapele The Hoxton, Toronto ON, December 9
Photo: Kevin Jones
Within the R&B world, Goapele Mohlabane has been lumped into the "highly underrated" category, with the bulk of the folks in attendance at her performance last night in Toronto (December 9) probably in the "I'm really just here to hear that one song (2002 hit single 'Closer')" camp.

The singer-songwriter has had a largely unheralded career despite her resilient vocals and megawatt charisma. It's all good, because the Oakland-native is a genuinely talented artist who arguably fits into the "neo-soul" subgenre. Stepping onstage with a jazz-blues styled four-piece backing band (bassist, guitarist, percussionist, and keyboard player) she hit us with selections from her five-album discography, including cuts from her latest, Strong as Glass like "Hey Boy" and the title track.

Goapele carried an almost regal presence on this night; her performance style was smooth with a crackling energy that was just a notch below "tear the roof off this place." She can blow when she needs to blow, but also maintains a calm singing style that soothes. The moderately full crowd responded in kind to faithfully rendered versions of tracks like "Play," "First Love" and "Insanity" off her latest. "Any singles in the house?" she asked, before getting into current single, "Powerful."

By the time the familiar jazz organ strains of "Closer" came around towards the end of a 70-minute-plus set, she demonstrated why she's earned her rep as a fierce R&B artist.

And humble, too: "Thank you for your energy," said Goapele before the night ended.