Concert Preview: Wild Belle comes to U Street Music Hall

If you’re in dire need of something to brighten the somber season of midterms, Vox has the perfect prescription: a light, feel-good concert in the District.

Native Chicagoans Natalie and Elliot Bergman make up the duo known as Wild Belle. The siblings have a long history with music, as their parents  were musicians and introduced them to music at a very early age. The older sibling, Elliot, is especially talented with instruments. While studying at the University of Michigan, he started an Afrobeat band called NOMO, in which he played saxophone, percussion, electric mbira, and electric sawblade gamelan.

Since NOMO, Bergman has been commended as a highly sophisticated and creative composer. Critics say “his charts reveal a canny knowledge of song forms that come from jazz, soul, and blues and employ a keen, elegant sense of dynamic and texture.”

NOMO‘s jazz and Afrobeat influence have clearly made their way into Elliot’s new project with his sister, especially since Natalie often guest-performed with the band on its tour. Being siblings, the two have influenced each other’s music lives for years. Wild Belle, however, is their first official collaboration in which they put their individual and unique musical experiences together for the creation of something entirely different.

Their sound has been described as “breezy dancehall pop” that seems to stem from vibes of a “tropical island where rocksteady rhythms, disco beats, and soulful grooves shine down steadfast and abundant.” Actually, the duo named their debut album Isles, apparently noticing that every track on their album has sounds reminiscent of different kinds of an island feel.

In live performances, Natalie and Elliot are backed by a group that includes a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. Elliot provides layers of synths and the dub-reggae beats, occasionally coming center stage to play a stylish riff on his baritone sax. Natalie clearly makes the band, though, with her sultry, smooth vocals that make even the most ironic or even pessimistic lyrics sound sweet. In “Twisted“, for example, she sings “What’s the definition of love if it isn’t material things/material things?”, and later, “You never told me that you were as cold as ice/You never told me that you were as cold as ice/We travelled down this road once or twice/Silver or gold will make our love right.”

Lyrically, Wild Belle may not be the most sophisticated, as most of their tracks are simple love songs about saying goodbye and moving on. Nonetheless, they’re endearing, and even more so because they are coupled with beautifully crafted pop sounds and catchy head-nod-inducing melodies. Watch the duo perform “Love Like This” below.

Wild Belle will perform with Saint Rich at U Street Music Hall on Tuesday, October 15th at 7 pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.

Photo by dakin.hardwick via Flickr

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