When the guests and themes for Soulive’s fourth annual Bowlive run at Brooklyn Bowl were announced, many fans circled last night’s date on the calendar as the trio were set to present a tribute to the famed Stax label with the help of The Shady Horns and iconic keyboardist Booker T. Jones. On paper it looked to be an impressive bill and in person it lived up to expectations.
[All Photos by Andrew Blackstein]
Afrobeat act The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow featuring saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum (Dap-Kings, Fela!) opened the evening with a quick and potent set of percussion and horn-heavy tracks. The talented ensemble showed off their range by mixing uptempo songs such as Dark City and Impala ’73 with the more tender You’re So Good To Me and No Goodbyes. Soulive took the stage just after 9:45PM and wound up treating attendees to one long 12-song set and an encore by the time the night came to a close.
The NYC-based trio kicked off their set by themselves with the instrumental Outrage from 2007′s No Place Like Soul and also played Dig from 2003′s self-titled effort without any accompaniment. Eric Bloom (trumpet), Ryan Zoidis (sax) and James Casey (sax) of Lettuce, aka The Shady Horns, were the evening’s first guests. The trio helped out on the rest of the set, banging on percussion instruments when they weren’t blowing. Guitarist Eric Krasno was on point throughout the whole show with his angular licks and energetic flurries of notes. Kraz was especially impressive on Hat Trick, the song on which The Shady Horns first emerged. On For Granted, Soulive welcomed guitarist Binky Griptite and two horn players from Johnny Arrow to help out.
Set: Outrage, Dig, Hat Trick (w/ Shady Horns), For Granted (w/ Shady Horns, Binky Griptite and Two Members of Johnny Arrow), Flurries (w/ Shady Horns), Hip Hug Her (w/ Shady Horns and Booker T.), Hang ‘Em High (w/ Shady Horns and Booker T.), Born Under A Bad Sign (w/ Shady Horns, Booker T. and David Hidalgo), Crazy (w/ Shady Horns and Booker T.), Time Is Tight (w/ Shady Horns and Booker T.), Something (w/ Shady Horns and Booker T.), Everything Is Everything (w/ Shady Horns and Booker T.)
Encore: Green Onions (w/ Shady Horns, Booker T. and David Hidalgo), Tuesday Night Squad (w/ Shady Horns), Blues Jam (w/ Alan on vocals)
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Drummer Alan Evans, who acted as MC throughout the set, introduced Booker T. Jones. The keyboardist promptly sat down at his signature B3 and the ensemble launched into the title track of Booker T. and the MG’s 1967 album Hip Hug-Her. Jones hasn’t lost a step and seemed incredibly excited to be playing in front of such a young crowd. The Stax tribute continued with the Wild West-themed Hang ‘Em High which is Booker T. and The MG’s interpretation of the score Dominic Frontiere wrote for the 1968 Clint Eastwood movie of the same name. Next up was Born Under A Bad Sign, a performance that was taken to another level when surprise guest David Hidalgo of Los Lobos emerged. Hidalgo was set to perform with the Allmans at the Beacon, but apparently decided to add a second Bowlive show to his slate (he’s one of tonight’s guests).
Booker T. covered Crazy by Gnarls Barkley for his Road To Memphis album in 2011 and it was a fantastic choice for Soulive to tackle with him. Jones emphasized every little nuance of Cee Lo Green’s vocal line on organ, while Neal Evans laid down a groovy bass line with one hand and complimentary organ riffs with the other. From there, Jones started up one of the MG’s biggest hits, Time Is Tight. Soulive sure loves their Beatles cover and last night offered a soul-laden, rave up of Something before ending the set with a cover of Lauryn Hill’s Everything Is Everything. You knew Booker T.’s most recognizable song, Green Onions, was coming at some point and he didn’t disappoint as Green Onions kicked off an extended encore. Hidalgo also emerged to help out on the impressive version of Green Onions.
Soulive returns to Brooklyn Bowl tonight, tomorrow, Friday and Saturday.
Here’s more photos from Andrew Blackstein of last night’s show…