Review | Soulive With Susan Tedeschi & Guests | Brooklyn

Words by: Chad Berndtson

Soulive w/ Susan Tedeschi, Joe Russo, Shady Horns & Guests :: 3.19.14 :: Brooklyn Bowl :: Brooklyn, NY

Soulive is ideally suited to the extended residency format, especially in a place like New York where many fans come to more than one show and expect something different – but no less intense, original and thought-through – every time.

Watching the hard-boogieing hordes on a rainy Wednesday night – the fifth of eight shows in this year’s installment of Bowlive – you couldn’t help but tip your hat to what Alan Evans, Neal Evans and Eric Krasno have achieved. Not only is Bowlive a real Soulive residency that hearkens back to headier days when the trio – and its galaxy of friends – played these ragers in the Big Apple all the time, but it’s also a format that reminds us just how versatile this crew is. From soul-jazz with George Porter Jr. and John Scofield to raging funk, hip-hop and blues with a who’s who of guests spanning DMC to Susan T., Bowlive means painting with every color in the Soulive palette, with the band adjusting night after night but always sounding like itself.

As in previous Bowlive evenings, this night’s adventure began with the core trio, flexing its muscles on “So Live!” and “DIG.” The now-frequent Beatles dovetail came next, with “Eleanor Rigby” shifting to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” in a psychedelic wash of guitar and keyboard that at one point had so much emphasis from Alan Evans that a piece of his drum set broke under the strain.

As it turned out, powerhouse drumming was the order of the night, with featured guest Joe Russo next to the stage – and Evans’ kit – for a massive “76,” before the Shady Horns came aboard for “For Granted.” “Vapor,” a favorite for lovers of Soulive with horns, kept things aggressive, particularly with Eric Bloom’s five-alarm trumpet solo.

Jon Cleary had warmed up the crowd with a 45-minute set so pleasant in its uplifting, boogie-woogie soul that it didn’t much matter it was almost identical to his Tuesday opening set. It was a gas to see Cleary slide back into place for the close of Soulive’s first frame, joining the full band, horns and also a surprise visitor, Tedeschi Trucks Band vocalist Mark Rivers, for “When You Get Back,” worked over in all its late-night-in- NoLA-vibe glory.

Set two kicked off with a pair of Soulive aces, “El Ron,” a typically tight groover, and “Aladdin,” which yielded to horn section solos and then saw the rest of the band drop away entirely as the horns jammed, conversed and rode the breakdown back into the head of the song.

With all that soul-jazzy exploration finished, what came next was a crush of soul, R&B and roadhouse blues courtesy of Susan Tedeschi, the announced second-set guest.

Tedeschi and the members of Soulive – particularly Krasno, who’s worked with Tedeschi and Derek Trucks for years and briefly played bass in the TTB last summer – have an easy, kidding rapport, which made the whole rest of the set feel less like a concert and more like an anything-goes impromptu jam session among buddies.

This being Soulive and Bowlive, there were lots of buddies. Along with Tedeschi, Russo slid in to play James Casey’s percussion rack and Rivers returned to sing backing vocals. The whole crew moved through a selection of songs focused on Tedeschi’s soul-blues comfort zone, including her “Butterfly” and the Ray Charles gem “Tired of My Tears” to get things rolling and then a frothy guitar duel with Krasno on “There’s a Break In the Road,” the Betty Harris tune that’s been a Tedeschi staple in the past.

[Photo by Adam McCullough]

Next came the simmering midnight soul of “It’s So Heavy,” a TTB tune that Krasno had a hand in writing, followed by the more torqued-up “Misunderstood,” another TTB regular and one written by Krasno and (forthcoming Bowlive guest) Sonya Kitchell.

Up until that point, the band had largely backed Tedeschi, passing the baton around for solos but deferring to her sweet-coarse vocals rather than breaking out. That all changed as Cleary returned to the keyboards, and Tedeschi doffed her guitar, firing up the whole ensemble for Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman” – one of those massive, late-in-the-evening Bowlive funk fests where the whole crowd is into it at once and asses shake as if possessed.

With the hour stretching past midnight, rumors circulated that the other “T” in TTB might be making an appearance as the Allman Brothers Band set at the Beacon had finished about 11:45. It wasn’t to be, but as Tedeschi, Cleary and the Soulive corps piled back onto the stage, they did have one more “T” guitar in the mix: London Souls front man Tash Neal.

With Russo back behind the kit, and the horn section locked and loaded, the band lit into a fierce “Lovelight” – all howling shout-sung verses, stabbing horns and squealing guitars. It looked like the end, but after a quick huddle, the ensemble served up one more: “Little by Little,” the Junior Wells shuffle that brought Brooklyn Bowl back into broiling blues territory.

With the Allmans in twilight, a new mythology of spring New York jam-scene residency traditions was much in need. Bowlive was already a tradition. Now it’s a staple, and the keeper of the flame.

Bowlive Night 5 – March 19, 2014

Set One: So Live!, DIG, Eleanor Rigby > I Want You (She’s So Heavy), 76 (1), Up & Out (1), For Granted (1), Vapor, When You Get Back (2, 3)

Set Two: El Ron, Aladdin, Butterfly (1, 4), Tired of My Tears (1, 3, 4), There’s a Break in the Road (1, 3, 4), It’s So Heavy (1, 3, 4), Misunderstood (1, 3, 4), Clean Up Woman (1, 2, 3, 4)

Encore: Turn On Your Lovelight (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Little by Little (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

(1) w/Joe Russo, drums and percussion
(2) w/Jon Cleary, keys
(3) w/Mark Rivers, vocals
(4) w/Susan Tedeschi, vocals
(5) w/Tash Neal, guitar and vocals

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[Published on: 3/20/14]

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