The Re-rebirth of Soul with Kelly Finnigan

Traditional soul music has come a long way since its start in the 1950s and 60s yet there is something about its revival over the course of the last 20 years that is pulling heartstrings and reaching into us at a much deeper level. This comeback is not merely nostalgic, it is somehow finding a central home within the infinite spectrum of genres that is now so easily accessible to us all. The rebirth of soul, which was resuscitated by artists like the late Sharon Jones, Lee Fields, and of course, Charles Bradley, should be no surprise—it has always been there because there is an innate cry within us to experience this tradition drawing from early jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel that served as a backdrop to the civil rights movement in the United States. 

Within this family of soulful American royalty, in comes Kelly Finnigan. And while for some, Finnigan may have arrived from out of left field, history does precede him. His father, a legend in his own right, played keys with Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, and Taj Mahal to name a few. Yet, for Finnigan, music really came to him at his own pace—having shied away from formal music education and then finding his own voice through his influences, he is here to remind us what has and always will be great about soul music.

Finnigan has filled the Bay Area music scene in San Francisco for nearly a decade as a singer, songwriter, producer, and engineer – having toured with George Clinton, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and Charles Bradley along with psychedelic soul band Monophonics where he delivers hard-hitting organ licks and a sweetly-tinged southern vocal flair like no other. 

The Rickshaw Theatre, in many ways, is one of the few venues left in Vancouver where you can get up close and personal and feel the hot, sweat-drenched, power that emanates from a performer like Kelly Finnigan. It wasn’t enough to merely watch and enjoy Finnigan’s performance, he wanted no part of any passive engagement. This was a celebration.

Finnigan brought church to the downtown eastside – sermon and all. 

“From the left, to the right, to the front, to the back, sitting, sideways, on the groundI don’t care where you at. Vancouver, if you are feeling mighty, mighty fine tonight, you’ve got to make some noise!” exclaimed Finnigan as he danced around the stage intermingling with the backup singers, mighty, mighty horn section, and lineup of guitarists he had to his side.

This was no ordinary Saturday night in Vancouver and Finnigan made sure of that with patience and love.

“I’m feeling like its getting better every time you know. It’s a work in progress baby. You see, when you dance around, the band gets excited and they dance around. We’re almost there Vancouver. We’re almost at the top of the mountain.”

Finnigan first solo record which dropped on April 26th of this year, aptly named The Tales People Tell, is perfection but to see these songs performed on stage with a nine-piece band is intoxicating. 

“I Don’t Wanna Wait”, the first track off Finnigan’s LP, had locals swayin’ and lovers lovin’ in the dimly lit Rickshaw. Timeless love songs that show off Finnigan’s range and breadth of experience is a testament to the years of touring that this hard-working 37-year-old has to offer. If you happened to miss this one, I highly recommend you immerse yourself in the many musical projects he has been a part of over the years and wait patiently for him to return.


Ricardo Khayatte

Ricardo Khayatte