Words by: JR Hevron | Images by: Cara Schembri
Galactic :: 12.31.07 :: Tipitina's :: New Orleans, LA
It's hard to get excited by New Year's Eve concerts these days. With the crowds, the jacked up prices and the general amateur night antics, many freaks would rather just stay home and celebrate with friends. We've thrown our hat into the Galactic ring for the past few years and this year was no different. Getting in and out of Tipitina's was painless, the crowd was into it and the band played a tight, inspired, well paced mix of groovy funk, hip-hop and heavy rock. While the show wasn't my musical highlight of the year, it was a blast and a perfect way to ring in 2008.
| Stanton Moore - Galactic :: 12.31.07 :: NOLA|
We got to Tip's at 11:45, eager to get in before midnight. A New Orleans tradition is to shoot guns up into the air at midnight instead of fireworks. Billboards around town warn, "What goes up must come down," and almost every year some poor person learns this the hard way. Over the years, my parents have found bullets in the roofs of their house and cars. That said it's a good idea to be indoors for the countdown.
The band was in the middle of playing some old-school instrumentals when we walked in, a rare treat on this tour. If you haven't seen Galactic in the past few months, they've been touring with many of the MCs on the From the Corner to the Block album and focusing on that material. While many hardcore fans that'd come to expect a certain instrumental groove have been disappointed, the rappers do bring a new accessibility and put-your-hands-in-the-air atmosphere to the shows. For better or worse, Galactic is good at handing the reins over to whoever is rapping while stepping into total background band mode. It puts a lot of pressure on the MCs to carry the show and kills some of the musical spontaneity and variety that attracted people to Galactic in the first place. Even with great MCs it can get tiring. When I saw the band in New York in November, 14 of the 18 songs in the single set show had MCs. It just didn't feel like much of a Galactic gig. But, with two sets at New Years and a whole tour under their belts, the band had a lot more room to mix things up.
Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 took the mic at midnight for the countdown, accompanied by horns from the opener Egg Yolk Jubilee. We grabbed a complimentary bottle of champagne from one of the bars and braced ourselves for a fun cover of Zep's "Immigrant Song" with Chali 2na, his brother, sideman Laidlaw and the other MC at this show, Mr. Lif. Afterwards, Chali 2na and Laidlaw took over for a run of three songs including two Jurassic 5 tunes and one from Corner. As far as the MCs go, 2na is the most commanding. He's tall and charismatic with a strong delivery that rides with the band's grooves almost like another instrument. There's so much chemistry between Chali and Galactic, that he feels more like a full time member of the band than a guest MC.
| Mr. Life with Galactic :: 12.31.07 :: NOLA|
After two more instrumentals, Mr. Lif hit the stage. Lif's tune is one of Corner's best but doesn't translate well live. He has a very different style than Chali, where he raps with his hoodie up and hides behind glasses and enormous dreads. His delivery sits more on top of the music rather than grooving with it. He's good at what he does, but it takes some getting used to.
When the set ended we drifted outdoors, hopefully safe from falling bullets. Thanks to New Orleans' liberal open container laws and Tipitina's liberal reentry policy, it's quite the scene outside during set breaks. Back inside, we headed for a front-and-center spot on the floor. After floating around Tip's all night, it was tempting to stay in the VIP area upstairs, where there was actually room to move, but the energy of the floor sucked us in. Standing there, we could finally see the backdrop - a simple black light poster style fleur-de-lis radiating dayglow orange lines behind Stanton Moore.
A thin gentleman in a new red suit walked out with the band. It took a second to recognize the Houseman. He's thinner and a little grayer but looking good - a positive sign after the health scares that contributed to his departure from Galactic. It felt like old times with Houseman back on the mic singing "There's Something Wrong With This Picture." Sure, everyone in the band looks a little older and there are more wedding rings in the mix, but what felt the same was the way time slowed down for a second as the audience segued into the old groove-mind-space. Even if you didn't like Houseman when he was touring with the band, he brought a certain energy to the stage that the MCs just miss.
| Houseman with Galactic :: 12.31.07 :: NOLA|
All too brief, House was only on for one song but the band had more treats for us, namely the rocking "Black Eyed Pea" > "Trampled" combo they've been playing for the past year. The whole second set had a nice flow, especially now that most of the dissipated audience had fully settled in. After a few more instrumentals, Chali 2na and his brother hit the stage for a few more songs, and then it was time for another sweet dose of the Houseman. I don't even particularly like "Century City" but he sang it with such authority it was tough to deny. Afterwards, Mr. Lif came out for one more sequence of songs, closing with "...And I'm Out" from the album. The band ended with "Shibuya," a song that has lost some of its luster over the years but had guitarist Jeff Raines raging on slide.
As the clock hit 3 a.m., our group wondered aloud if this was it. Galactic has spoiled us in the past with three set New Years shows and it certainly felt like we were in for another one. So, it was mildly disappointing that it turned out to be only two more songs. The band came back after a few short minutes and went into their awesome cover of Balkan Beat Box's "Sunday Arak." Chali 2na and Laidlaw came back for one more song to close the night and it was time to follow the slow drag of people back out onto the corner.
12.31.07 :: Tipitina's :: New Orleans, LA
Set One: FEMA, Crazyhorse Mongoose, Go-go, COUNTDOWN (Chali 2na), Auld Lang Syne (Egg Yolk Jubilee) > Immigrant Song (Chali 2na, Laidlaw, Mr. Lif), Comin Thru (Chali 2na and Laidlaw), What's Golden (Chali 2na and Laidlaw), Think Back (Chali 2na and Laidlaw), Spiderbite, Hit the Wall, The Playback (Mr. Lif), Pull Out Your Cut (Mr. Lif) > Settle the Score (Mr. Lif)
Set Two: Something's Wrong With This Picture (Houseman), Black Eyed Pea > Trampled, Garbage Truck, Get Focused (Chali 2na and Laidlaw) > International (Chali 2na and Laidlaw), Lock Shit Down (Chali 2na and Laidlaw), Baker's Dozen, Metermaid > 2 dots, Century City (Houseman), Front on This (Mr. Lif), Fiasco(Mr. Lif), ....And I'm out (Mr. Lif), Shibuya
Encore: Sunday Arak, Step Your Game Up (Chali 2na and Laidlaw)
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