Galactic, Opera House, Toronto ON- 2/5
February 5th, 2002 was my first chance to see the band Galactic, about whom I’d heard many things, but whose music I'd had minimal exposure. It was also my first chance to go to the Opera House in Toronto, after having moved here a few months ago. I got to the show a little late and the dance floor section of this ancient venue was stuffed with people of all ages in the mood for a high-energy dance party.
I had heard rumours before the show that Galactic vocalist Houseman would not be there because of his inability to cross the border. Clearly the rumors were just that, as the Houseman was…in the house. Some people that he’s charismatic and they love him, while others feel he’s a bit cheesy, and over the top. I found that him to be all of those things, but most importantly he has a powerful voice, full of emotion. For me, the highlight of Houseman’s segments of the show were Little Miss Lover’ a Jimi Hendrix cover and the encore rendition of Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf.’ Powerful versions of both with ripping vocals as the band referenced the originals while interjecting their own style and attitude to make the songs completely their own.
The instrumental side of Galactic comprised the majority of the two sets. For myself, a relative neophyte, Stanton Moore stood out in particular (there is no way that guy is human). He helped drive the intensity level of the group, particularly when the band moved from familiar grooves to novel terrain. In addition, when appropriate, the group expertly applied tension and release in their improvising. Building, building, building and then exploding to an even higher energy level and doing it all again. However, while many musicians understand the importance of tension and release, Galactic uses it sparingly and effectively. Not a second too soon, and never too late. The band’s explorations also achieve such resonance because at the core are the group’s rich compositions. Galactic builds from these, paying careful attention to manipulating rhythms in the manner of serious jazz players.
While I entered the Opera House expecting jazz-funk, I was also blown away by how rock’n’roll Galactic can be. Late in the second set, several of the tunes turned into ecstatic rock outs, with all the power of AC/DC or even the mighty Sabbath. Just another example of how Galactic has taken its many influences and churned them into something that is unique and exciting. If this is the future of funk, I like where it’s going.