Monday, November 16, 2015

Lettuce Crush It at PlayStation Theater

I've seen Soulive a handful of times.  I've even seen Eric Krasno solo.  But until Saturday night, I'd yet to have seen their sister band Lettuce, despite the fact that "By Any Shmeeans Necessary" is one of my favorite instrumentals ever.  Unfortunately, that song didn't make an appearance, but this show was the second in a two-night stand to celebrate their latest release, Crush.  It's a fitting title.  From the moment the seven-piece funk powerhouse took the PlayStation Theater stage, it was obvious that crushing was what they intended to do.
Kicking things off with the aggressive, staccato fanfare of "Evil Wu," Lettuce commanded the room's attention and never let go.  The first half of the set was mostly reserved for newer material, ones of the highlights being "The New Reel," a Neal Evans-penned tune that the keyboardist injected with a fresh batch of spookiness.  Krasno rounded out the song by layering in some g-funk Moog lines.  The next number was the perfect complement, an as-yet-untitled outtake from the Crush sessions that was decidedly chiller than most of Lettuce's oeuvre.  "Pocket Change" presented itself as a soloing vehicle, with both Kraz and saxophonist Ryan Zoidis taking the reins.

As the band barreled through "Lettsanity," they welcomed Nigel Hall to the microphone.  Hall seemed determined to get the crowd clapping along to James Brown's "Bodyheat," instructing, "If you've got a drink, hold it with your mouth or something."  At its completion, Nigel admitted the anxious excitement that he'd felt backstage: "I've been chomping the bit all night.  I've been like a Rottweiler on a leash."  Surprisingly, Hall didn't perform any tunes from his day-old album Ladies & Gentlemen..., but stuck to material he'd sang on earlier Lettuce LPs, along with forays into "Bustin' Loose" and "Joy & Pain."  During "Move on Up," which he dedicated to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks, Hall moved on upstage to the organ, allowing Neal to have some unabashed fun with a tambourine to wrap up the set.  Lettuce returned to the stage with Nigel once more for an encore of "Do It Like You Do."  The satisfied audience couldn't help but sing along.

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