Lotus Turn It Darker With Tim Palmieri’s Dynamic Guitar Work At Baltimore’s Soundstage (SHOW REVIEW)

Lotus wrapped up a highly-anticipated two-night run at the Baltimore Soundstage on Saturday, February 26, with a pair of lively sets replete with their trademark infectious melodies and slick beats, albeit with a distinctly edgier & more aggressive vibe than ever before thanks to recent addition Tim Palmieri’s dynamic lead guitar work. 

Palmieri, who garnered something of a reputation over the past decade as one of the jam band scene’s brighter, if lesser-known, rising stars thanks to his impressive chops with groups such as Kung Fu and The Breakfast, took over lead guitar duties for Lotus when original guitarist, Mike Rempel, surprisingly announced he was leaving the band last June to pursue a professional career outside of the “rock n’ roll lifestyle” that comes with being a touring musician. Rempel’s subtle yet purposeful playing was highly respected and pivotal in developing Lotus’s smooth and distinguished sound since their formation in 1999, making the news of his departure all the more shocking to fans & critics alike. 

Thankfully, admirers of the electro-funk quintet have much to look forward to as Palmieri’s gunslinging approach to lead guitar, rife with fiery arpeggios and extended tension-and-release filled runs that would make any Phish fan proud, seems to be a natural fit for Lotus’s groove-based sound, as was evident in Baltimore, MD this past weekend. 

The band kicked things off in front of the capacity crowd with the evening’s lone cover, a bouncy bass-driven version of Norwegian DJ Todd Terje’s “Inspector Norse” that commenced with Palmieri hanging back while brothers – and the group’s founders & creative directors – Luke & Jesse Miller laid down an atmospheric river of melodies on keyboards and bass, respectively, on top of a thumping backbeat from the imposing percussive duo of Mike Greenfield (drums) and Chuck Morris (percussion). However, it wasn’t long before the guitarist made his presence felt as the song patiently built to a rousing climax, helmed by Palmieri, setting the tone for the remainder of the evening. 

The opening set featured only one newer song, “Phantom Tooth”, from the 2021 EP Citrus, as the remainder of the selections, focused on older material, including “Kalea”, an unreleased track dating back to 2006 that sports a relaxed vibe as well as a pair of tunes from the group’s 2005 release The Strength of Weak Ties, “Blue Giant” and “Tip of the Tongue”, the latter of which brought the first set to a climactic conclusion thanks, once again, to some Palmieri-induced fireworks.  

After a brief set-break, the band picked up right where they left off with the drum and bass-influenced “Blacklight Sunflare” from their 2011 self-titled studio album, Lotus, which allowed multi-instrumentalist Luke Miller to showcase his impressive guitar skills before switching back to keys.  

The evening’s theme of concentrating on older songs continued throughout a majority of the second set with one of their eldest originals, “Sid”, which has been in regular rotation since its 1999 concert debut, as well as a monster sequence that led off with fan-favorite “Plant Your Root” from the legendary 2004 album Nomad before gracefully segueing into “Greet the Mind” and then eventually “Slow Cookin”, both from the 2007 live-EP Escaping Sargasso Sea prior to eventually wrapping up with a reprise of “Greet the Mind’s” catchy synth-riffs. 

The set came to a triumphant close with an adventurous takes on “72 Hrs Awake” and the popular “Middle Road” before ushering the buzzed crowd into the sub-freezing Charm City environs. 

Despite the sudden, and quite frankly major, personnel change the band has had to face over the past year, it is apparent to anyone listening that Lotus is not only up to the task, but is clearly thriving in the moment. Sure, there’s a slightly darker & more chaotic undercurrent in some of their playing now as opposed to years past, but that rarely tends to be a negative quality in live improv-based music, and certainly isn’t a detriment here. Besides, given the current overall worldwide state of affairs in 2022, we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Lotus Setlist Baltimore Soundstage, Baltimore, MD, USA 2022

 

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