Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Georgia Theatre, Athens, GA- 4/18
On 215 N. Lumpkin St. in musically legendary Athens, Ga., one block away from the University of Georgia, sits a venue that holds perhaps 40% of the Tabernacle’s 2,500 seat capacity, yet entices many bands away from Atlanta. The incredibly friendly security and staff make me want to call this place the Fillmore Dixie. Although I only know the Fillmore from books, the Georgia Theatre seems to have the Bill Graham Attitude towards its customers. Despite the reasonably priced drinks and the walking distance from UGA, the crowd was incredibly well behaved and incredibly rowdy. Robert Randolph’s music, the staff, and the crowd were just parts of an overwhelmingly positive experience for all.
Robert Randolph and the Family Band, consisting of Marcus Randolph on drums, Danyel Morgan on bass guitar and Jason Crosby on organ saw no point in starting small, blazing immediately into the staccato “Run For Your Life.” The best part was, it was as if Randolph wanted to take the first song to show how damn good he was, and then spend the rest of the concert devoted to the music and not his own talent.
Randolph started the fun, beautiful “I Need More Love” right after, content to have everyone in the crowd bouncing, and, rather than try to wail, he went into Michael Jackson’s disco anthem “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough.” It was note-perfect, fun-as-hell, and seemingly turned all of us in the audience into dancing monkeys. From here Randolph went back into “I Need More Love” and, because we didn’t feel enough like damn dancing idiots, then took it into “Wanna Be Starting Something,” another stellar Jackson cover from back when Michael was only slightly batshit.
Randolph continued the party with “Shake Your Hips.” At this point he started pointing at hot girls in the crowd like he was a member of KISS. Security brought them onstage, one by one, until about 40 girls were onstage. By the time the song was over, two girls were trying to sandwich Danyel and another young woman was helping Randolph play pedal steel. It was clear Randolph, despite his ability to showcase his virtuosity, had come solely to focus on our good time. Despite being from north Jersey, he couldn’t help asking the audience to move its “feets.”
Randolph broke out a couple unreleased gems, such as “The Way She Loves Me (Roll Up),” and “Soul Refreshing.” At this point, for all the great musicians that had let Randolph sit in (WSP, ABB, Clapton, Matthews) it was payback time, and Robert pulled a couple members of the audience onto the stage, handed them a guitar, and played rhythm for them as they soloed. He gave them a couple minutes to get over their jitters, and another couple minutes to solo, and switched out. The jams continued for most of the night, and Randolph began a fantastic encore that started with the mellow “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to which the audience sang along. It ended with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” They walked offstage, and the house music came on. I pulled out my earplugs, and the audience was deafening. “One more song, one more song!” as not a single member left. The house music was ignored. Security went back outside, pulled him off the bus, and he did the only post-house music encore that I have ever seen. It ended with “Ted’s Jam,” his masterpiece from LIVE at the Wetlands.
The crowd finally let him go home after that, and my feets were sore as hell.