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Published: 2002/02/04
by Dan Alford

Steve Kimock Band, Bowery Ballroom, NYC- 2/2

Set I: Tongue n Groove, Rainbow’s Cadillac, You’re the
One, Moon People, In Reply > Avalon
Set II: It’s Up to You, Sabertooth, LFP1, New Africa

Before beginning the first set at just after 10:30,
Steve took the opportunity to let everyone know that
it was a special night: it was Alphonso Johnson’s
birthday. Being somewhat chatty, he talked about
sneaking out of the house when he was younger to see
Alphonso with Weather Report, and about how Bruce
Hornsby was hanging out back stage the previous night,
“Just to make me feel uncomfortable.” The man does
not lie, however, and it was a very special night of
music. The audience was incredibly respectful, to the
point of being absolutely silent during many songs,
and the band responded by laying on the grooves with
renewed keenness. The birthday boy shined throughout
the entire show, smiling as his big fingers plucked
those heavy strings, always in the forefront of the
jam. Likewise, Steve was at his best, slicing open
the night with a deluge of incredibly fluid leads.
Unlike Friday night, Mitch took very few solos,
showing some fine and funky rhythm skills instead.

Tongue n Groove immediately cast a mystical shroud
over the sold out venue. The crowd was silenced as
the band moved through the exceedingly beautiful
beginning, Steve and Alphonso playing off each other.
The bassist had a music stand on stage that I didn’t
notice on Friday night, and perhaps that accounts, in
part, for his deft performance. Kimock moved over to
the lap steel for a long, consuming solo. It’s only
fair to point out now that words will utterly fail to
sketch the evening’s proceedings. The magnitude of
this performance must be heard.

Steve’s guitar playing on the cover of Hornsby’s
Rainbow’s Cadillac was super clean. He danced and
spun around the higher regions, crisp as could be.
Rodney pushed forward with a true solo, but it was
overshadowed the subsequent lead from Alphonso. As
Rodney played quietly in the background, the bassist
manipulated a wa pedal for endless bars before
switching the sound to a very neat, clean sound that
paralleled Kimock’s work earlier in the tune. The
solo was entirely melodic, entirely breathtaking.

Continuing along the same happy line, the band stirred
up a hoppin’ version of You’re the One. Mitch took
his first solo of the night, also choosing a clear
sound, although he finished his lengthy paragraphs
with notes drawn out and warbled with the whammy bar.
Steve jumped in with a short slide piece that dropped
to a gritty jamlet. Rodney swelled up with big jungle
drums, finally driving it home.

Friday’s foray into lunacy was so exciting that the
repeat of Moon People was anything but disheartening.
Moving from gossamer breezes to the massive power
chords, the rendering was strong and engaging. The
meltdown portion began with Steve smiling as he put
his guitar behind his back and slowly inched toward
his speaker stack. The return to the theme featured a
nice bit of teamwork from Mitch and Rodney. There
were many moments when the subtle interplay between
band members surfaced, showing a level of
sophistication that is only had with truly skilled
professionals. These men know how to listen and
react, as in the fragile ballad In Reply, where Rodney
is forced to restrain his normally bombastic style,
but did so without compromising his sound. His
patience paid off, as he was able to dominate the
transition to Avalon, unleashing concussive rounds
while his band-mates all switched guitars. The set
closer was utterly triumphant and exciting, despite
its high rotation. This set was so intense, so
pregnant, that my thirst for K waves was entirely
satiated. At the Bowery, it is very often the case
that many people leave during the set break, giving
the stalwarts extra room to boogie. But this
performance was so strong that even though the second
set didn’t start until 1 AM, the venue remained pack
till very end.

Since the show started a little late, the second set
was truncated. The opening It’s Up to You seemed to
embody to night’s vibrations. It was forward-focused
with some classically balanced lead/rhythm work, an
ethereal space-out and a wildly careening tunnel jam
to close. Even Sabertooth offered some interesting
musical discourse, although its immaturity remained.
Steve dedicated Long From Part 1 to Rodney’s mother,
Lois, who was in attendance. Another beautiful, moody
piece (3 in that vein tonight), its first outing was
short and mellow. The second venture was more
concretely defined, Steve’s spidery fingers peeling
out shafts of brightness over Rodney’s increasingly
pronounced drums. The third voyage was grander,
majestic. Now Alphonso’s arachnid digits commanded
attention, now the whole band was lurching forward,
now Steve was cutting towards the surface, now the
band leaked into his wake, now they all slid back to
the theme so smoothly that Kimock started laughing,
eyes wide with surprise. To close the show, a short,
but energetic New Africa- a dance on sun-drenched
plains. The audience sang Happy Birthday to Alphonso,
and he offered thanks by picking up his bass for a
wondrous solo. Fine spun and heart felt, he stunned
everyone, both on the stage and on the floor, with his
skill and emotive abilities. Truly a magical moment
to end a magical night.

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