Soulive, Mercury Lounge, NYC- 9/12
Takin’ it back to the old school
Soulive continues to evolve into an all-purpose funk and soul juggernaut, providing all required beats and rhythms in a variety of forms. First, Eric Krasno, Neil Evans and Alan Evans performed as a guitar/keys/drum trio. Then Sam Kenninger permanently joined the band and added some sax to the mix. Finally, the " 21st Century Revue" show was born in 2002 and the boys performed with a full horn section, DJ’s, vocalists and rappers. The band made it obvious, though, that the fall tour 2002 would be a step back to the original trio – old school Soulive.
They dusted off the suits and some older tunes and launched into a three-night run at the Mercury Lounge. The run would be a special one as they are recording the shows for the band’s first live album. If last night was any indication of what’s to come, this live album will be a must buy for all Soulive fans, regardless of which incarnation of the band you prefer.
The first set opened with the new tune "Fire Eater." It took the band a little while to warm up, and being this song was unknown to many, it took the jam-packed room a little while to warm up too. However, by the third song of the set, Doin’ Something’s "Shaheed", the band and crowd were in the pure funk stew that has defined Soulive’s sound. Neil’s right hand was wailing on the high notes of the Hammond B-3, his left droppin' bass bombs. Kraz absolutely shredding the strings on his Ibanez and Alan kickin’ the syncopated rhythm to perfection.
With fewer people to get together on stage, the band really had the opportunity to explore while remaining tight throughout the night and this was completely evident during the fourth tune, "One in Seven". If this jam doesn’t make it on the live disc, it would be a surprise. Once again, proving that he can do it all, Alan’s octopus-like limbs were as free flowing as ever and he kept the crowd shaking and moving. After a few songs of funk, it’s a welcome change to hear a little bit of house music, and its always great to get a solid drum solo.
After a few new songs, the first set closed with the classic favorite, "Turn it Out". The Soulive sound was in full force again. By this jam, the crowd was just a wave of movement, following whatever beats and rhythms were getting thrown out. Neil’s handiwork was showcased again, and the Soulive climax was hit before this one was said and done.
Its amazing how only three musicians, playing only four instruments can not only keep the interest of the crowd, but rather continue to build on the funky foundation laid in the first set and then completely blow the roof off in the second set. It could be the unbelievably catchy melodies provided by Kraz or Neil, the heavy bass lines, the unreal drumming or the perfect combination of all three. I try not to question these things, just accept them as they are and enjoy.
Things got underway immediately with "Solid" and "Power of Soul" but it wasn’t until the closer, "So Live" that things got out of hand. This song has also evolved since its early forms but the energy remains the same. Before hitting the climatic ending, the rhythm was slowed to a near halt, and the volume to a mere whisper before rising out into an absolute explosion.
For the finale, the crowd was rewarded with the classic, "Uncle Junior". This jam brought Neil and Kraz’s improv abilities to the forefront and each took their time in the sun. Neil brought his Hammond to the highest chord and Kraz stretched his fingers to the front of the neck of the hollow body while Alan smashed the cymbals in an all-out battle royal of crashes.
For any northeast fans that were disappointed by the problematic and short Berkfest set, hopefully you’ll be at one of the shows down the road. Soulive’s original three are in top form and jam happy as ever.