On a strange and tragic day, a thousand miles away from the terror that
besieged NYC and Washington D.C., in a little middle American college town,
Iowa City played host to a show that will be remembered by all present. The
venue, ironically, the University of Iowa’s Memorial Union Main Lounge, filled
slowly as many likely contemplated even attending a show on such a morose day,
a day in which Air Force One visibly flew over our heads.
But those who came down were rewarded with almost three hours of song, dance,
virtuosity, and inspiration.
The band members, haling from New York, surely a little apprehensive and
distanced themselves about the day’s events, took the stage quietly and got
down to it right away opening up with some new material. After two new upbeat
tunes, Bela brought the already quiet room to complete silence. He read some
announcements and encouraged everyone who could, to donate blood and continued
reading off some local blood drive information.
The announcements were followed by a moment of silence for the victims and for
the families and for the rescue teams.
The show went on to be an amazing performance. It was reasonably the best damn
live music I’ve heard Bela, Vic, Future Man, Jeff perform or any other band for
that matter in a long, long time despite the IMU Main Lounge’s shaky acoustics
The show had it all. There was the tune selection, which was quite literally a
current roster of the band greatest hits, the solos, the jams, and surprises.
The harmony produced by the tight interactions between the four band members
sounded like an improvised jazzgrass symphony. And of course, there was
Victor Lemont Wooten’s playing was sounding like a waterfall flowing. The
barrage of slap, tap, pull off, tap and slide-up and down- was so smooth it
looked easy. The first solo was Vic’s and he set the tone that brought tears
to the eye. He worked “Amazing Grace” with a whole new, immediate meaning and
the crowd just stood in awe of the beauty of the slightly tapped harmonics in
light of the destruction witnessed earlier in the day. Coming out of his
aggressive birthday solo, a gentle “Norwegian Wood” lulled his hooting admirers
and astonished newcomers.
The crowd later sang a giant group “Happy Birthday to Victor”.
The group jammed hard out of “Stomping Ground” into a plethora of eclectic
melodies and songs, a bag full of tricks that included the surf crazed
“Wipeout”, “Theme to the Pink Panther”, and variations on Wizard of Oz themes,
which was somewhat reminiscent of 2.14.00 at Madison’s Barrymore Theater.
Future Man turned out some lyrics to “Sunset Road”. I hadn’t heard him sing
them before. They were interesting to hear for the first time but to me, they
seemed to take on fresh meaning on this night as Future Man sang “I stand
alone…”. During his combination of new percussive instruments with a worldy
drum space beat groove, Future Man’s sounds rolled across the room creating a
unique feeling. Futch tapped into something both heavy and ethereal during his
solo. It was rhythmic and reflective.
On “Two Horny Blues”, Jeff just ripped. Dually saxes and all, He busted out
hard air rocking the place with everything he had into a song that sounds like
a slow sad bluesman’s challenge.
The night closed down with the lights turned down. It was just the man and his
Bela thanked the crowd and admitted the reservations the band had about playing
after such a devastating day but was (and I’m paraphrasing) happy and thankful
they went on. Bela’s solo, like the show itself, had a little of everything.
In what order, I’m not sure anymore but the beauty if you can imagine in a slow
and steady pickin’ and hammerin’ worked through the Peanuts’ theme-“Linus and
Lucy”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Happy Birthday”, and ended in the quiet
solitude of some classical stylings.
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones Tour Dates