While the Allman Brothers Band have been keeping a March musical tradition going since 1989 with their Beacon Theatre runs, Soulive has given life to a musical tradition all their own in Brooklyn. In 2010 Soulive played a 10-night, guest-laden residency at the Brooklyn Bowl titled “Bowlive.” Now in its fourth year, Soulive continues to top themselves with each successive Bowlive. From last night’s Bowlive IV opening show, the trio has laid the groundwork for raising the bar once again.
[All Photos by Andrew Blackstein]
Fusion-jammers Kung Fu kicked off the evening with a short but sweet set filled with potent improvisation. The Connecticut-based band is now in the midst of their fourth year together and continue to expertly mesh the sounds of the groups that spawned Kung Fu: The Breakfast, RAQ and Deep Banana Blackout. Guitarist Tim Palmieri and keyboardist Todd Stoops each have a unique style that’s so different from anybody else in the scene as it mixes speed and accuracy with an ear towards melody. I wasn’t the only one who wished there set went on longer.
When Soulive took the stage for their first set of Bowlive IV they were unaccompanied. Guitarist Eric Krasno, keyboardist Neal Evans and drummer Alan Evans showed off ther jazz-funk-groove hybrid sound on a run of four originals that kicked off the run with a bang. From the minute they started from 2007’s No Place Like Soul, it was clear Soulive would need no warm up. They hit it hard from the get go. Hat Trick, off 2009’s Up Here, shined the light on Kraz’s tasteful, soul-laden shredding. He’s got a sound and approach similar to John Scofield with a dirtier edge to it. Next, Soulive dipped towards the early days of the band by performing Shaheed from 2001’s Doin’ Something and Tuesday’s Night’s Squad.
Marc Millman’s Video of Soulive w/ Popper’s Mulling It Over
John Popper of Blues Traveler emerged towards the end of the opening stanza as the first guest of Bowlive IV. Popper made his time on stage count adding gritty vocals and harmonica work to a cover of Come Together by The Beatles and then leading Soulive through a killer rendition of the Blues Traveler classic Mulling It Over. The Soulive guys picked the perfect Traveler tune to cover as both Evans’s and Kraz dug into the song’s main riff with passion and energy. Neal Evans especially enjoyed the main Mulling It Over riff as he generally stuck to repeating it with his left hand on bass piano. If you have a chance to see one of these shows, be sure to watch Neal play, as it’s quite amazing to watch him handle the bass parts with one hand and the organ/clavinet parts with the other. Popper was also impressed with the band, as he stated “so uh, these guys are fucking awesome” before launching into Mulling It Over.
After a long setbreak, Soulive returned to the stage for another lengthy set that was made longer by the absence of Questlove who was scheduled to spin post-Bowlive but didn’t make it over from Carnegie Hall where he was performing at a Prince Tribute. Alan Evans made a special announcement before the music started, telling the crowd that each year they try something different at Bowlive and that this time around they were incorporating “The Bowlive Dancers.” With that the house LD shined a light on four female dancers who were strutting their stuff along with the music on the first few bowling lanes. They shimmied and shaked for a few tunes, capturing the attention of the crowd.
North Mississippi Allstars’ guitarist Luther Dickinson sat in during the second set on a mix of North Mississippi Allstars songs and covers by Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. Luther’s drum/washboard-playing brother and NMAS band mate Cody Dickinson got in on the action towards the end of the set. The guitarist especially shined on the Hendrix covers – Spanish Castle Magic and Manic Depression, but the highlights of the set were particularly engaging versions of While My Gently Weeps and Tomorrow Never Knows. Even Grammy-award winning singer/ trombonist Saunders Sermons of the Tedeschi-Trucks Band lent a hand on Night One of Bowlive IV as he emerged during a Kissing My Love (Bill Withers) encore.
Bowlive IV continues tonight with Robert Randolph, Lee Fields and Expression Horns aboard as guests.