Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Next Round - Episode 13: Soulive

Alan Evans of Soulive and Playonbrother is my guest this week. We had a great chat backstage just prior to the second Wednesday of Bowlive V.

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Unfortunately, I came down with a debilitating cold after the show, and neglected to post a review of the concert. So here goes:

Even if the Allman Brothers Band calls it quits (apparently just a rumor, by the way), New York music lovers have nothing to fear.  With Bowlive having just celebrated its fifth year, the unstoppable organ trio of Soulive have proven that they are quite capable of handling the mid-March NYC concert scene.

The band tore into "So Live!" to start the set, but lamentably, Neal's clavinet wasn't working.  Thankfully, Eric Krasno's muscular guitar was enough to fill the void until the issue was solved.  Sometimes Krasno sits back and plays fluttery, melodic stuff, but this wasn't the case during "Dig."  This was white hot funk played with "Fuck with me, I dare you" attitude.  That's not to say Kraz was the only one hitting it hard.  Alan was pounding his kit with enough power that he busted right through one of his toms during "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," the second part of a Beatles medley beginning with "Eleanor Rigby."  The drum was switched out seamlessly, and then Evans relinquished his throne to special guest Joe Russo.  It was interesting to note the differences in their technique, Joe playing the pair of Krasno tunes, "76" and "Up & Out," with a more pronounced bass pedal stomp than Evans' syncopated style.  The band invited Jon Cleary and Mark Rivers out to finish the set with its only vocal performance, Cleary's blue-eyed soul singalong "When You Get Back."
For set two, I relocated to the VIP area beside the stage.  With no house speakers facing me, the sound wasn't as clear, but the view was ridiculous.  It was as if I were a member of the band or at least a documentarian capturing the onstage workings of a show.  From my vantage point, I was able to see just how much work Neal does.  We all know he can lay down a phat bassline with his left hand while delivering a smoking Hammond solo with his right, but he was also operating a cluster of pedals on the floor with his feet.  Once Susan Tedeschi joined them, he assumed the role of the bandleader, clapping out the tempos of songs so that everyone would be on the same page.  I'd never listened to Tedeschi before, an oversight that I've been delightedly correcting ever since.  I had no idea she could churn out the Family Stone-style funk of "Butterfly" and then turn around and nail the troubled blues of "It's So Heavy."  At one point in the set, I looked back between the amps to see Russo on congas, proof that when Soulive's onstage, you just wanna join in.  They reinstated Jon Cleary for a cover of Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman," the set-closing highlight of the night.

After a brief huddle, the band (minus Alan, who let Russo take over) returned with another special guest, Tash Neal of the London Souls.  Following a gospel-inspired take on "Turn on Your Lovelight," the show wound to its end with Junior Wells' "Little by Little," allowing all three guitarists to trade licks into the night.

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