Yeah THEY Right!!! aka The Funky Meters @ Brooklyn Bowl, 2/15-17
FIVE YEARS. Seems kind of crazy but when somebody said to me the other night that it had been five years since the most popular version of N’awlins’ original Funk band had played New York, I had to think about it for a minute. And then I responded with what any true fan would say: “Yeah, you right.”
[Photos by Marc Millman]
The Meters formed at the tail end of the ’60s. They released Cissy Strut and Sophisticated Cissy in 1969. And with those songs, the four original members of the group (Art “Poppa Funk” Neville on organ, George Porter Jr. on bass, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste on drums and Leo Nocentelli on guitar) helped to create a new genre in American music. Funk was born out of James Brown’s shift in style in the mid ’60s. And The Meters along with Sly & the Family Stone, George Clinton and other seminal acts like Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, the Ohio Players and Kool & the Gang brought a whole generation to the dance floor by getting people to dance “On the One,” as James used to shout at his band.
The Meters were THE backing band in New Orleans the way the Funk Brothers were at Motown or Booker T & the MGs were at Stax. But the band broke up in the mid ’70s during a dispute over recording contracts. Just over 10 years later, Porter decided to put a new version of the band together that would feature himself with Neville & Russell Batiste on drums. Guitar would be played by Brian Stoltz and sometimes by Nocentelli. And this is the version of the band that most of us grew up seeing regularly in the ’90s and beyond. But then…IT HAD BEEN FIVE YEARS!
- Marc’s Funky Meters Videos: Ride Me Dunky, Soul Island, People Say, Be My Lady, Sing A Simple Song > I Want To Take You Higher, Cissy Strut > Love The One You’re With, Fire On The Bayou, Midnight Rider, Sing A Simple Song > Funky Stuff, Hey Pocky Way > Little Liza Way,
READ ON for more from Marc on The Funky Meters…
And yet there they were, live onstage “across the river” playing the funk instrumentals, funky covers and original Meters classics that had every Tulane alumni and the rest of us Funk Junkies shaking our asses and grinning ear to ear. Over the course of three nights, the band worked themselves back into prime playing form and showed why it is that “the Meters will funk you to death.” There were repeats played. But if you only made it to one show, you were given a great sampling of the 40-plus year history of the group.
Tuesday night started off with (The World Is A Little Bit Under The Weather) Doodle Oop and included Africa, Just Kissed My Baby and Ain’t No Use.
Wednesday night included favorites Love Slip Up On Ya, Soul Island and People Say. Near the end of the set there was an extended jam on the Sly Stone classics Sing A Simple Song and I Want to Take You Higher that featured Eric Krasno on guitar, Adam Deitch on drums and Nigel Hall on vocals [These three had just come from playing a set as the Nigel Hall Band at Rockwood Music Hall on Manhattan’s Bowery].
Thursday night started earlier than the other two as it was supposed to be over by 11pm for ?uestlove of The Roots to DJ. Instead it turned out to be the longest show of the stand. The set included a bit of everything from Dylan’s Rainy Day Women through a killer jam of Cissy Strut seguing into Stephen Stills’ Love The One You’re With. And before it was all over we were treated to Art signing the Allman Brothers’ Midnight Rider, a second jam on Sly’s Sing A Simple Song – this time with Krasno, ?uestlove on drums and Nikki Glaspie on cowbell – and Hey Pocky Way. And after some cajoling by club owner Peter Shapiro, the four members of the band returned to the stage for an encore of Keep On Stretching (Your Rubber Band) & The All Ask’d For You.
There are several bands in the history of American popular music whose worth was held more highly by members of their own musical brotherhood than the public. Little Feat and The Band come to mind. But if you made it to Brooklyn this past week as a “virgin” or one of the faithful followers, it is clear why Paul McCartney once hired these men to play his Venus And Mars album premiere party and why The Rolling Stones took them on their tours in 1975 & ’76. But as they walked off the stage and prepared to return home to N’awlins, we were all left with one question: Will we really have to wait another five years?