Escort Proves to be the Chic of the New Century
Neo-disco band showcases their Chic-inspired jams on Southern crowd
PHOTO GALLERY : ESCORT // MARCH 7, 2016 // IRON CITY, BIRMINGHAM, AL
Playing classic disco in the American South seems to be as out of place as wearing a cowboy hat on the beaches of South Florida. The two worlds hardly collide, unless you’re a closeted Studio 54 Southerner and you’re pumping Chic, Musique and Cerrone in the basement of your crib. But as the opening act for Cee Lo Green’s Love Train tour, Escort — a New York studio band led by gorgeously talented Adeline Michele and the orchestral songwriting duo of Eugene Cho and Dan Balis — are trying to bury that misconception of Southern life. It’s a tough sell, considering that the musical market is non-existent of an essential EDM scene and only jumps on the boogie when a line dance, whether country or urban, is in motion. But their skill of pulling off groovy R&B, executing rhythmic percussion and showing off Maxim-styled sex appeal with Michele in front could be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.
In the studio and on record so far, the band plays with the mysterious ever-evolving personnel ethic of Steely Dan. Over twenty musicians helped assemble the band’s brilliant self-titled LP, an album spotted with the Studio 54 ode “Cocaine Blues” and the addictive hooks of “A Bright New Life” and “Love in Indigo.” The grooves mostly sound like they’ve sampled elements of disco’s glory years. “Cocaine Blues” plays with the melodies of People’s Choice “Do It Any Way You Wanna,” while “Starlight” show off the type of grooves Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards would’ve put out in their zenith. They also reached into futuristic synthpop and dance with the bubbly ‘80’s gem “All Through the Night” and the haunting, mesmeric “All That She Is.” They recently released their second LP, Animal Nature, using most of the same players while expanding their musical template to include deeper synthhouse and electro-powered dubstep. Yes, Escort sounds like Chic, a 21st century version of disco’s grandest bands. It doesn’t hurt to know that they hail from the same corner of the world of Chic, where disco reigned at its best.
On the road, Escort is skimmed down to a solid five-piece unit: Cho holds down the boards; Balis is shielded by a versatile percussion set; Michele is singing and playing her bass while Dave Sharma pounds down the songs’ heartbeat. But the smaller Escort executed everything good and delicious about their album delights while on their stop at Iron City in Birmingham, Ala. Michelle encouraged the crowd to get into the music, and that they did. “Don’t be shy,” she said, while flirting with the excited front row and showing off gay-inspired vogue motions right before “Body Talk.” Throughout their 45-minute set, the tempo never gave up, focusing on an enduring disco pulse that felt like an endless mega mix. They opened their set with “A Brand New Life,” paved the way for the new album’s “My Life” and entered into “Animal Nature,” “Barbarians” and the charming radio-ready “If You Say So.” Then came a barrage of covers coming from the disco inferno: Cerrone’s “Supernature,” Inner City’s ‘80’s house hit “Good Life” and Machine’s “There But for the Grace of God Go I.” Closing out that unbreakable medley was a near-perfect live performance of Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman.” Sure, the audience there, possibly all born after the disco crash of 1980 and eager to hear Cee Lo Green, may not be all that familiar with those throwbacks, but Escort didn’t compromise who they were to cater to their limited encyclopedic indexes. They came to drop the dancey fruits of the Big Apple on the ears of Magic City, and judging from their roar of satisfaction they want another bite. They wrapped up their set with “Cocaine Blues,” the perfect adios for a clever contemporary disco band hailing from New York. By the end of their set, the room wanted to be a part of it. Start spreading the news: Disco is not dead; Escort has risen.