R&B singer Gallant serves up slick, simple performance

Gautami Sharma/Staff

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“My name is Gallant.” Rising R&B singer Christopher Gallant, who performs under the mononym Gallant, didn’t say much to the crowd during his set at the Fox Theater in Oakland — at least not in plain words. Instead, he engaged in intimate conversation with his audience through soulful falsetto vocal riffs, passionate movement and sheer positive energy.

Like a nimble boxer in the ring, Gallant threw songs like punches, each more powerful and raw than the last. His opening strike was the melodic “Talking to Myself,” a lyrically introspective jam that set the precedent for Gallant’s incredible use of falsetto vocals. The set felt swift and dynamic, yet to the point: Gallant and his band were on the stage within seconds and off just as quickly, solidifying the impression that the music is all that mattered. Gallant emerged in a flashy and simplistic white jacket and equally white jeans, mic in hand and burst into his first song with a spark that flourished into a bonfire by the end of the set. The stage around him was humble and simplistic, with a slick “Gallant” logo projected onto the screen and nothing else. The result was an unobstructed view and experience of the performance and music.

Though many of the tracks on Ology, Gallant’s debut record, have a much more electronic sound, the live show featured live instrumentation, which added a new flavor to the typically more subdued feel on the album cut. On record, Gallant’s songs boast crystal clear vocals over minimal instrumentals. But in concert, the vocals are consumed by the frequencies of drums and guitar filling the venue. Gallant’s voice became more like an instrument than a lyricist, laying melodic tones on top of the beefed-up sound his band provided. The similarities between the R&B of the ‘70s and ‘80s and Gallant’s music were accentuated by the live drums, guitar and keyboard, highlighting the stylistic similarities between the two. The energy between Gallant and the drummer was particularly potent; Gallant’s vocals were beautifully accented by the frequent crashing of cymbals and smooth drum fills. The two would share the spotlight, alternating frequently throughout songs as the rhythm would give way to Gallant’s smooth vocals.

While it felt more lavish in comparison to his recorded work, Gallant’s live music never felt ostentatious or gaudy. The slick quality was maintained through its delivery, as the performance felt slightly distant from those watching it. Gallant was so absorbed in his craft that there may as well have been a glass wall between him and the audience, a swaying mass of observers looking in on a display of raw emotion and talent. The crowd would cheer and whistle whenever Gallant’s vocals reached octaves of dizzying heights — like they did on his performance of his hit single “Weight in Gold” — but the man himself was focused and intense.

Though Gallant’s performance was simple, he was effective in delivering a unique R&B sound without apology or buffer. Gallant was engaging and raw, and though he hardly interacted with the crowd directly, he let the intimacy of his music speak for itself. Gallant exited the stage at the Fox Theater without a word, drawing his short and impactful set to a concise close.

Contact Sam Gunn at [email protected].