Anders Osborne Brings The Groove To Austin (SHOW REVIEW)

Anders Osborne has always been an interesting figure in the way that he is a tried and true New Orleans musician but is by no means defined by the city. However, when he wants to channel the funkiness, he can do it. These days the guitarist and singer has found a large following beyond New Orleans, mainly within the jam band scene. Osborne is a welcome presence there because he can match his prowess on guitar with well-written songs and a good singing voice, a rare combo in the jam scene. On Saturday Osborne and his band made a rare headlining appearance in Austin at the Scoot Inn.

Osborne’s band lineup has changed throughout the years, and currently he features most notably the accomplished guitarist Eric McFadden, an interesting choice considering Osborne is already such a strong lead player. At the Scoot Inn, Osborne and his band demonstrated the serious musical chemistry they have with what seemed to be more of a focus on group jamming and creating a unified groove. There was plenty of soloing from each musician onstage, but rarely did anyone – including Osborne – dominate the spotlight. Osborne’s presence onstage was refreshing precisely because he is not an ego guy, but rather a humble bandleader. On songs like the organ-heavy “Windows” and laid back, Grateful Dead-meets-reggae “Wind”, the group steered clear of explosive jams, instead honing in on a danceable groove.

Osborne welcomed the horn players from opening act Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds on “Improvise”, giving the song a fun, loose sound and complimenting Osborne’s soulful singing. “Mind of a Junkie” featured thick, sludgy guitar jams to make it one of the harder rocking songs of the set. Osborne would tone things down soon after when the band left the stage and he was joined only by Eric McFadden on mandolin for a stripped down acoustic version of “Kiddin’ Me”. Before the set came to a close the band amped back up with a thunderous, guitar-heavy “On The Road To Charlie Parker”.

For two hours Anders Osborne and his band kept the crowd moving and dancing, adding bits of funky New Orleans flavor along the way. After leaving the stage and returning to massive applause, Osborne brought Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds onstage to join his band for a heartfelt, smile-inducing cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil”. This was a proper way to wrap up the night as just about everyone in the audience joined in on the sing-a-long. With an Anders Osborne show, the craft of the song takes almost equal precedence with group improvisation. At Scoot Inn there was little noodling or drifting into druggy space, and clearly the control and tightness that Osborne brings to the stage is a welcome force in the jam band scene.

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