BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | Eric Burton started his music career in California, busking for tips at the Santa Monica Pier. In time, making his way through the Southwestern states, he landed in 2017 in Austin, Texas. There, he co-founded Black Pumas with guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada of Grupo Fantasma, a Grammy Award-winning Latin funk band.
Promoting their second album, “Chronicles of a Diamond,” released this past October, Black Pumas headlined Radio City Music Hall on Jan. 19. For Burton, the journey from the California beach to Rockefeller Center was almost a mountain-climbing, 10-year dream.
Basically a rocking rhythm-and-blues band, Black Pumas spread across Radio City Music Hall’s massive stage. From start to finish, Burton was animated and charismatic, so much so, that he owned the spotlight, the entire stage and even, during the encore, the wing of the stage along the left side of the hall.
Quesada had a few moments in the bright lights, but Burton easily commanded the audience’s attention at all times. The rest of the musical ensemble, which consisted of backing vocalists Angela Miller and Lauren Cervantes, keyboardist JaRon Marshall, bassist Brendan Bond, drummer Stephen Bidwell and percussionist Terin Ector, provided more than adequate backing, but visually disappeared into the dimmer lights for most of the performance.
Burton’s singing was smooth and delicate. With the support of the musicians, his timing was exceptional when alternately rousing the audience and chilling the room. The set included seven songs from the newer album, six from their 2019 eponymous debut album, plus a cover version of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which started the encore. The songs gently cruised into pleasant grooves, with clever arrangements that periodically gave the melodies a jolt. Rather than simply coming to perform the songs like they were recorded, Burton and the musicians subtly redesigned the arrangements to electrify the audience.
During the first song, Burton signaled to the audience to stand at their seats, and the crowd stood swaying to the sounds until the last song was played.
If there was any weakness in the Black Pumas presentation, it was how much style overpowered content. The band is young and may learn to better punctuate the lyrics, so that each song blossoms independently rather than allowing song after song to fall into a hypnotic flow. Even so, the concert was a crowd pleaser.
Know You Better
Black Moon Rising
Ice Cream (Pay Phone)
More Than a Love Song
Fast Car (Tracy Chapman cover)
Rock and Roll
For more of Everynight Charley Crespo’s coverage of the city’s music scene, check his blog, The Manhattan Beat.