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Published: 2001/06/23
by Dan Alford

Soulive Celebrates Brooklyn, Prospect Park 6/22

setlist:
Steppin', Hurry Up > Uncle Junior, Azucar, 1 in 7,
Jesus Children of America > Who Knows > Sex Machine* >
Steppin' Remix*^ > JCA
E: Lenny > Turn It Out

  • w/ Shuman

^ 1st half only

During the past week the City has been invaded with
the smooth sounds of live soul groove. On Monday
night Velour Records hosted the Groove Against Hunger
at Tribeca Blues. The benefit show helped raise money
for world wide food distribution, part of a nice trend
toward community focus in the jam scene. It also
featured a powerhouse band, including Eric Krasno,
Neal Evans, Oteil Burbridge, Charles Hayes and Sam
Kininger, laying out a night of wild jams and long
solos. The opening JCA from that show was almost 30
minutes, and was followed by Oteil originals, Soulive
originals and a very fine Watermelon Man. Neal spent
the night riding a funky Korg, barely touching the
B-3, and he was thriving on the skwonky sound, jumping
up and down on the crowded little stage. As if that
wasn't enough, the show advertised as Summer Solstice
at the Mercury Lounge on Thursday turned out to be the
Summer Soulstice when Soulive put on a two set stealth
show. The first return to the East Village, as
Soulive at least, since the Baby Jupiter from the fall
of 99 shows (from which was culled the So Live! on
Turn It Out) was a listener's delight. But wait,
there's more! On Friday Soulive took the stage at
Prospect Park in Brooklyn as part of the Celebrate
Brooklyn summer series. For a mere 3 dollars apiece,
a good sized crowd of soul fiends, families, little
babies and lounging locals were able to celebrate the
coming of summer with a blast of slick grooves and
funky sounds. The venue was nice, with seats and
lawn, and lots of room to dance. If this same event
had been held at Rumsey Field in Manhattan, it would
have been absolutely packed.

The set opened with a rather shaky Steppin'. The
sound was overrun with too much high end and Neal was
coming through sort of fuzzy. Beyond that, the trio
just wasn't making the turns quite right. By the end,
however, things had settled a bit and there was a
brief passage with nice noodling from Kraz over
sustained organ notes. Hurry Up. and Wait was the
true beginning to the show. This time they all
slipped through the curves with ease, Al's drums
sounding particularly rich. After Kraz's solo there
was a sharp drop the bottomed out with shuddering bass
from Neal. The sounds progressed into a bout of B-3
madness that had Neal off his seat and shaking his
ass. A splice transition led to an energetic Uncle
Junior. It is a tune that I could hear at every show
and it would never bore me. But more than that, this
one was really hopping. A nice transition from the
composition to Neal's solo called out with Kraz's tone
finally solidifying into its rich, woody sound. Neal
danced furiously up to the sustain, while Kraz began
his charge with a series of statements. Over the past
few months I've noticed a shift in Eric's playing. He
still brutalizes the crowd with break-neck rhythm and
waves of sharp notes, but he's also been taking more
time with the quieter passages. He picks short ideas,
toys with them briefly and then moves on. The effect
is that he is exploring a bit more, and sounding more
mature in general. Kraz is a great guitarist, but he
is young and his experiences with myriad musicians are
making him a versatile, consummate musician.

Before the show I was chatting briefly with Neal, and
requested Azucar, a tune that has eluded me since its
early performances in the summer of 99. So when Al
called it out, I was in ecstasy. A great version, its
hallways echoed with bent notes and dancing B-3 keys.
This sugar was swinging! The end jamlet was
fantastic, tossing about with great rolling tumbles of
drums, pointed organ and haunting guitar. It
stretched way out in a short time, brushing against
more experimental borders than one usually sees at a
Soulive show. And then they pounded into 1 in 7.
They nailed perfectly, Neal's bass plowing through the
night air. The energy was high and Kraz picked up his
solo without pausing for even a fraction of a second.
Vigorous shredding resulted, before dropping down to a
nice, long end jam grounded by Alan's tom and Neal's
self-reflective melodies.

Finishing the set was another in a long line of
impressive JCAs. During the vocal solo, Neal matched
Kraz well with low-end bubble bursts. The compliments
were pronounced in the mix and sounded great. The
solo started to really cook with lithe movements. Al
and Neal left the stage, and all alone, Eric took up a
funky theme that called the brothers back for a quick
jam. Who Knows erupted and gave way to Alan's solo,
during which Shuman took the stage, tossing vinyl
copies of Steppin' Remix to the crowd. He grabbed
Al's microphone and led a "When you need it. Soulive,"
chant before counting down into Sex Machine. Take it
to the bridge! Then, out of nowhere, he started the
rhymes from Steppin' Remix! Maybe he missed the
beginning of the set. And with the skill and
precision that we've all come to expect from Soulive,
they slipped right back into JCA. The close was long
and nicely textured. For an encore, the habitual
Lenny > Turn It Out. It didn't have quite the energy
of the set, but the climax was interesting in that it
wandered around, taking it's time rather than burning
up the stage. All in all though, a thoroughly
satisfying show. In fact, I was much happier with
this set than either night at Irving Plaza in April.
And as though we haven't had enough, Soulive will once
again strut the stage at the Jammys this Thursday,
play a set at the Vibes on Sunday afternoon and then
play a show that night at the Wetlands- their first
time there since 5-13-00 (a show worth checking out)!
Soulive is in the City, God is in heaven and all is
right with the world.

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