“This is not a gospel band,” Naomi Shelton has said, “It’s a soul band that happens to do songs about love and faith.” This first-rate soul band pumped out joyful grooves at their regular Friday night 9:00 set. Shelton, a seasoned singer influenced by James Brown and Sam Cooke, captivated the crowd with her no-nonsense delivery. While noisy NYU students played foosball, ping pong, checkers, and chess, Shelton’s fans filled up ten mismatched sofas or stood behind. Heads were bobbing, shoulders were moving everywhere as the band—electric guitar and bass, drums and Hammond organ—set the soulful beat. The Gospel Queens walked to their microphones. “Love is the First Step,” Shelton began. Her ear for pitch was razor sharp; her vocal improvs were fresh and passionate. She sang smooth; she sang rough; she sang truth. The Gospel Queens made rich harmonies, like older, wiser Ronettes who know what Heaven really means.
Catch them before everyone catches on. Get their new Daptone album, but hear these tunes live: “A Change Is Gonna Come,” for Shelton’s moving, personal delivery, and for danceable delight: “Count On Me,” “Power of God,” “Ain’t No Stranger to Hard Times,” “I Earned Mine.” Special praise is due to bandleader-arranger Cliff Driver (organ), Gabriel Caplan (electric guitar), and guest saxophonist Kaori Nakajima.
– Annie Dinerman