There’s an 80’s R&B singer out there, somewhere, who reminds me of Goapele. It’s a compliment. It’s not Lisa Lisa or Teena Marie, but it’s /someone/ of whom I can’t immediately recall. It’s sort of a retro-80’s sound, with a modern R&B twist.

Still, it’s missing something. It could just be me, but after listening to her records for months, I can’t really hum any of her songs or call out her signature in a crowd. The talent’s there, the band’s there, the production quality is there–all the right ingredients for a breakout record. But, it’s missing /the crave/. I don’t crave her music, but I enjoy it when I hear it. Some might call it “The Hook.” She’s missing the spark. The Hook. The Crave.

This may be why her performance on Friday left me wondering–does it require all of the ingredients and the right chef to make a record and a performer ‘breakout’ and ‘craveable?’ It, too, had all the right ingredients: A smoking band, a great venue with the right sound system, and a full house. Still, it was lackluster. Two days later, I can’t really remember it.

I do remember she brought out the talented Bay Area R&B crooner Martin Luther to sing a few tunes in her set, although we were all there to hear her music. It seemed something a “local” artist would do: call out another “local” artist to promote their music. It’s a wonderful gesture–but it certainly seems on the amateur side, especially at $40 a ticket in San Francisco’s preeminent jazz music venue.

Also, using a lot of copious amounts of call and response with the audience, and using covers from other successful R&B artists may be behind and beneath her now. There isn’t that much of a jump from the local to the regional music market. It’s a matter of fans, really. But from regional to superstar is a wide gap; It’s a gap not jumped by inviting new or even older fans to a sing-along of Mary J Blige covers.

There was some disappointment in the disorganization of Yoshi’s, as well. As much as I love that venue, they sometimes seem to have the arrogance of a New York City jazz club, and swagger their general admission patrons into “where should I sit” oblivion by sending everyone “upstairs.” Self-important staff with microphones shouldn’t bark orders or questions into their headsets during performances. Lastly, I’d make sure someone was recording video with their iPhone before they bark out “NO VIDEO!” to new fans taking photos of the artist to talk about them on their blog or social media.

I would like to say the band, who was introduced but whose names were inaudible stole the show, particularly the keyboardist who danced between a rhodes, a digital piano, a Nord backing up as a very tasty organ, and an acoustic piano. It almost seemed the band outplayed Goapele, as if their job was on the line. It seemed she didn’t think her job is on the line, even though it really is. Every night.

I think Goapele could benefit from a strong-arm manager and a snappy, young producer to create some very catchy and singable (craveable) material, and manage performances to no more than one at a specific venue. I’ll keep listening for that crave sound, but I probably wouldn’t make an attempt to see her perform live until she’s ready to take it to the next level.

PS: It’s pronounced gwa-puh-LAY.