“I heard this shit’s called blue-eyed soul. I just call it soul.” That’s how Plan B (aka Ben Drew), the British rapper-turned-R&B singer, opened up his headlining set at Music Hall Of Williamsburg last night. Taking a break from his opening slot on the Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae Hooligans In Wondaland tour, the Londoner took the stage dressed in an all-white suit and cradled his microphone closely with as much swag as a modern-day Motown crooner.
Performing songs from his sophomore effort, The Defamation Of Strickland Banks, which saw its American release last month on Atlantic, Plan B paired his smooth falsetto with beats from a live band and two backup singers, hand motions and all. It’s a big departure from Plan B’s debut album, Who Needs Action When You’ve Got Words, which found him spitting crass rhymes backed by acoustic guitars. On The Defamation, those rhymes are replaced by high notes and a storyline of the downfall of a soul singer. Streaming through songs like “Writing’s On The Wall,” “Hard Times,” “Welcome To Hell,” “Love Goes Down” and “The Recluse,” Drew entertained his crowd with microphone-stand spins and by playfully bumping into his guitarists and removing the hat from his fedora-wearing bassist. The reinvented neo-soul persona suits him though, and he’d almost convinced his crowd that he’s reformed, until he stopped to chat and introduce the next song, addressing his audience with swear words (to screams and applause). He’s got soul, but he’s still got bite.