Cabaret Review: Nick Blaemire and The Hustle

Nick Blaemire and The Hustle. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

I’m not sure what “nerd soul” is, but I can tell you this much: Nick Blaemire and The Hustle got funk, soul, and a whole lotta heart.

Described as “a 9-piece funk/R&B band that blends their love for the live band sounds of 60s and 70s soul musicians like Donnie Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson with the modern sensibility of musicians like Bruno Mars, Maroon 5 and Justin Timberlake,” I find comparisons to Maroon 5, especially in their early work, to be especially appropriate. Some of my favorite songs included one called “Waiting,” which began as part of a conception for a musical, and their grooving rendition of “Call Me Maybe,” which was a crowd pleaser and better than the original. Blaemire’s voice has a zen-like quality, beautiful in its liquid expression. Listening to him sing is at times like gazing into a coy pond. I appreciate this especially in his chosen genres of music, because I often associate today’s R&B with a tinny, pinched, whiny vocal quality that makes it difficult for me to enjoy. Not so with Blaemire, whose voice is well rounded, precise, and confident.

He is also as exciting to watch as to listen to, with moves that coincide with the comparison to Justin Timberlake; he is expressive and can hardly stay in his seat, except during a ballad, when he’s gazing off into the distance. If you think my compliments sound a little starstruck, I have to unabashedly agree; gentlemen, think about getting Nick Blaemire and the Hustle music for your significant others this Valentine’s Day. I’m serious; you’ll thank me!

Nick Blaemire and The Hustle got funk, soul, and a whole lotta heart.

The musicians that make up The Hustle take their art seriously; from brass to bass, keys to drums, they are well-coordinated and masters of their craft. They bring to the group their grounding in the New York music scene, and its unmistakable flavor. I love the showmanship of this group, and its honest, playful presentation. One thing I personally am not too fond of is their “style,” perhaps because I don’t quite get it. Blaemire and his band frequently refer to themselves as “nerds,” and they seem to be using this identity as part of their dress code, decked out in clean-pressed collared shirts, ties, rolled up jeans, and dark-rimmed glasses.

I’m torn here because, on the one hand, I appreciate the statement that a musician’s sound has nothing to do with “image,” and they are going against the tide to overdress and macho themselves. On the other hand, however, I find references to being “nerds” to be unnecessarily self-conscious in general, especially considering the love of their audiences and their wonderful talent. I think they’re protesting too much, and it distracts from their suave appeal. They should just get over themselves and admit that they’re sexy. That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. Now I’m going to go buy their album and listen to it in the car over and over.

Running Time: 1 hour.

To enjoy other cabaret performances by top-notch local and national performers, be sure to check out the Signature Theatre’s Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret series from now until July 28th.