Galactic | New Orleans | Review | Pics

Words by: Wesley Hodges | Images by: Jimmy Grotting

Galactic :: 03.05.11 :: Tipitina's Uptown :: New Orleans, LA

See a gallery of this show here.

Galactic by Jimmy Grotting
The chaos has cleared (at least for a day), the trash is (somewhat) picked up, and (some of the beads) have been put away, but the recollections of last Saturday night’s Galactic performance still stick out from the otherwise blurry Mardi Gras (Week) Weekend. This year’s Mardi Gras was one of the most-well attended and craziest in recent memory, with the pandemonious Bacchus/Endymion double header on Sunday, Lundi Gras late night shows dotting the city like usual, and a bluebird day on Mardi Gras morning greeting the early morning risers and still-goings-ers for the Zulu and Rex parades.

Fittingly for Saturday’s sake, Galactic and Mardi Gras have been synonymous almost from the beginning of the jam-funk-n-jazz band’s career (first Galactic show was at Café Brasil on Mardi Gras Day), and with each year, the reputation for the Saturday night and Lundi Gras shows continues to grow as a can’t miss inclusion on any music lover’s Mardi Gras itinerary. There wasn’t another place I would chose to be in the city despite the countless good, bad and ugly choices offered any Carnival-goer each night.

Tipitina's Uptown was all lit up on Mardi Gras Saturday for another celebration of the band’s return to their home venue on the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas, that beautiful old wooden building where magic happens throughout the year, but particularly during Halloween, Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest when the house becomes a frenzied hub of late night revelry for the musically inclined. To kick things off, Galactic took on the horn-centric “Santa Cruz” to ease people into their spots for a long night of music. From the first notes of “Funky Bird,” one of the band’s earlier successes from Coolin’ Off (Galactic’s debut album that is nearing its 15th anniversary - hard to believe), it was a clear indicator that the evening was gonna be a proverbial doozy. Another must-see live track came soon thereafter as Cyril Neville pulled double duties taking the lead vocals and playing percussion on the Ya-Ka-May track “You Don’t Know,” a samba soul tune that gave Neville an early chance to display his show-stopping singing.

Cyril Neville & Corey Henry by Jimmy Grotting
Corey Henry and Cyril Neville’s addition to the city’s finest overgrown rhythm section cannot be understated. Harkening back to the days when Theryl “The Houseman” Declouet was a touring fixture and permanent vocalist for the band, this pair’s vocals, stylistic contrast and stage presence fills out what was already an amazing instrumental ensemble, and, in my opinion, taking these guys to new levels. The addition of the complex Tour de Big Easy Ya-Ka-May songs like the highly successful single “Heart of Steel” (sung by Cyril), “Cineramascope” (trombone’d by Corey) and “Wild Man” (originally featuring Big Chief Bo Dollis but featuring Cyril live) have firmly established that you’ll probably be hearing Galactic on the local WWOZ-FM 50 Mardi Gras's from now on. The new school brass of “Boe Money” is about as straightforward as the night got; a welcome brass tune created in large part by Henry’s Rebirth Brass Band for Ya-Ka-May but setting in a slightly deeper groove tonight, punctuated by Henry’s overpowering trombone blasts.

A few guest spots by Austin,TX’s throwback funk and soul troupe T Bird and the Breaks added to the revolving door effect of entertainers onstage throughout the night. Most notably, all of The Breaks took to the stage during Set One for “Break In The Road,” an avant-garde classic funk tune that The Meters played on way back when. For Galactic, the playing was on-point (as usual) and impassioned (even more so than usual), with moments of transcendental energy passing from the band to crowd in great supply. The call-and-response, live hip-hop improv between Henry and the audience had the crowd watching his every move and helped peak the energy grid to its highest marks of the night (see second video below). Cyril’s addition brings a touch of the old school New Orleans vocal sound that accents Galactic’s already well-educated appreciation of its local jazz and funk forefathers.

Of course, props must be given to drummer Stanton Moore for continuing to be the hardest working live drum legend in the city - the man even played down at the d.b.a. on Mardi Gras Day with his Trio! The guy is a generational talent, and the chance to see him with such great frequency playing with so many different bands in New Orleans is a blessing to the local scene. Although it’s a rarity these days (especially at these local Superjams), there’s still nothing quite like seeing Stanton behind the kit with Rich, Jeff, Robert and Ben playing the tunes they have built and played live together over the past 15 years. This was quite the night, and along with my first time seeing these fellas at the Freebird in Jacksonville way back when, was probably my favorite Galactic performance. From the “Funky Bird” to the “Blackbird Special,” these interstellar jam titans had Tip’s flying off and runnin’ wild Saturday night.

(EPIC) Double-Jointed Dancer Guy

Galactic with Corey Henry – Gettin’ Low then Taking Flight

Ben Ellman, The Gypsyphonic Disko

Continue reading for more pics of Galactic...

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