If you’re a fan of music, you know very well that the music industry can sometimes serve up one-dimensional talent. Vocalists. Songwriters. Producers. Entertainers. The “flavor-of-the-week.” They excel at one thing very well, and God bless ‘em, they make an exceptional living doing so. However, as Cee Lo Green soared through his body of musical work during last night’s VH1 Storytellers taping at Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles, it became clear to us (as well as a room full of diehard fans) that his talents are much more multi-faceted than your run-of-the-mill chart-topper. Donning a white shirt covered in sparkles, and surrounded by a kick-ass, all-female band, the man of the hour actively did what he does best: connect with his audience.
Visibly excited, Cee Lo’s carefully-planned set allowed him to present his stories with true richness and delicate authenticity. And it makes sense; since the inception of his career, Green’s song-writing has been deeply rooted in his personal life, reflecting everything from his spiritual beliefs to whimsical sexual quips to torturous anguish. Starting his narrative somewhat chronologically, Cee Lo journeyed back to his Dungeon Family roots, bringing out Big Gipp, Khujo and T-Mo — fellow members of his early career group, Goodie Mob — to perform. Together, they disclosed detailed and passionate song inspirations, nodded at their career’s humble beginnings, and (ZOMG!) announced the group’s forthcoming reunion.
Having the courage to venture a bit deeper during the show, Green candidly described the positive impact that James Brown had on his life, going as far as referring to him metaphorically as “my father.” As you might imagine, Cee Lo was dramatically affected when the legendary soul singer passed away, and for the FIRST time, he specifically revealed that the impact fueled the creation of seemingly-morbid, self-reflection anthem “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” a song from his second group, duo Gnarls Barkley. The collaborative project with super-producer Danger Mouse (who Green not-so-ironically referred to as his “soulmate”) forged a creative connection that tapped into Cee Lo’s innermost emotions, spawning the unforgettable top ten hit “Crazy,” and also allowed him to reflect on his mother’s untimely death from years past. In her honor, the crooner blessed our Storytellers audience by covering “one of my mother’s favorite songs,” Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.”
Keeping the tone of the show properly balanced, the future judge of NBC’s The Voice was mindful to also spend time proving he’s no stranger to feel-good, up-tempo HITS! After informing the audience that he wrote and produced Pussycat Dolls’ sexy, sass-ridden smash “Don’t Cha,” Cee Lo brought the crowd to their feet and dove into a verse and a hook from the song, singing from a male’s point of view. Still standing, the Storytellers audience was then treated to a live version of “F*** You,” the song from Green’s more recent solo repertoire that last year went from viral sensation to international smash at warp speed. Jokingly calling the tune “fictitious,” Cee Lo acquiesced that buying a Ferrari is not an issue — “I just wanted to say ‘F**k you!’” — and spoke about being able to finally itch his collaborative song-writing scratch with Bruno Mars, his labelmate and co-writer on the track.
As he began to wind down last night’s set, Cee Lo took the time to make something very clear, dramatically proclaiming to the audience, “I am a SOUL singer!” After showcasing his pristine vocal ability for over an hour, we were certainly inclined to take heed of the self-identifying statement! But further consideration now behooves us to simultaneously disagree: Cee Lo Green is not JUST a soul singer: he’s much, much more. He’s a writer, a producer, a group-member, a brother, a son, a creative vessel, a singer, a fashion boundary-pusher, an entertainer, and — you guessed it — a gracious storyteller. When the final song ended, he told fans that he’d meet them all, one by one, and he endeavored to do just that.
SETLIST*: Crazy / Cell Therapy / Soul Food / Who’s Gonna Save My Soul / She Knows / Lovely Day / Bright Lights Bigger City / Don’t Cha / Forget You / Old Fashioned
[Photo Credits: Lacey Seidman]
*Subject to change.