As an odd crowd of hipsters, students and stoners quietly buzz, a bunch of guys take the stage largely unnoticed. And then suddenly, a relaxed melody oozes from the speakers – Zero 7 has begun. Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns, two collegiate-looking producers from London who are known professionally as Zero 7, have brought with them an entourage to make Sly and the Family Stone envious. The tiny stage at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club is filled to the brim, housing Hardaker and Binns (both manning keyboards and some impressive-looking sampling doohickeys), a drummer, bassist, guitarist, two female backup singers and an additional keyboardist curiously dressed in a striped bathrobe and tube socks. Three guest leads squeeze on and off the stage at various points reading like a hip version of “This Is Your Life.”
After a brief intro, charming Reggae crooner Mozez lopes onto the stage and eases into “Simple Things” – a smooth, R&B-tinged tune one might find soundtracking a Taye Diggs sex scene. Thus kicks off the feel of the night – relaxed, nouveau chill-out music building into full-bodied soul. This is feel-good music at its finest; love fills the room as Mozez encourages the crowd: “Hold a person near to you and enjoy yourself.” Yes, sir!
Following an instrumental from Zero 7 and its henchmen, complete with a Liberace-meets-the-Jetsons style solo from Mr. Bathrobe, Sia Furler slinks in front of the crowd. “Distractions,” the newest British single from the group’s Simple Things [Palm Pictures], quietly begins with a keyboard melody, until Furler’s steamy crooning revs up the audience. Showcasing her amazing voice on the “I love you, I love you, I love you” line of the chorus, the curvaceous blonde singer adores every minute of the huge crowd reaction.
Mimicking the album, the band starts into the next track “In the Waiting Line,” which features the vocal talents of hour-glass-shaped brunette, Sophie Barker. Her voice is lower and quieter, but every bit as sultry as her predecessor’s. How ironic, then, that she sings the lyrics “I’ll shout and I’ll scream” when her syrupy manner is anything but brassy.
Sex appeal seeps from the stage and awe rocks the audience as both women unveil the only U.S. single, “Destiny” -- a track responsible for the crowded venue thanks to Mtv2 video play and a spot on a Virgin Megastore sampler. This saccharine, rainy day ballad muses on the serendipitous meeting of souls and possesses a “that’s me” appeal popular with die-hard romantics and bookish hipsters. Still, with all of this deep sentiment and sexy styling, the group is unabashedly giddy, infecting the whole room.
Happiness is the theme of the night. All three leads enjoy comfortable contentment and arms-around-the-world charisma. Mozez takes a cue from Boyz II Men and launches into an empowering spoken word solo during “This World.” Mr. Bathrobe entertains with some Bojangles-esque soft-shoeing. And everyone is all smiles as the group rounds out the night with two encores. Zero 7 is truly this year’s love-drug.