Words by: Dennis Cook | Images by: Susan J. Weiand
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe with Anders Osborne :: 10.22.11 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA
Full gallery from 10.21.11 show below review!
The groove-tastic super powers of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe are well established with funk aficionados, but the current KDTU tour finds them flaunting their rock cred. Tackling one of the most iconic, just plain perfect rock ‘n’ roll slabs of all time, namely The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, is a sizeable task for any band, and on the surface, seemed way outside the wheelhouse of Karl Denson and his crew. But at the bottom of everything is the sheer oomph of the high caliber musicianship and beefy soul inside the Tiny Universe and their leader, and when viewed through that lens Sticky Fingers doesn’t seem like such a stretch.
|KDTU w/ Anders Osborne by Susan J. Weiand|
In full honesty, what made the experiment really work was special guest Anders Osborne, a fire breathing beast that tears into everything with a lusty intensity that’s infectious. Osborne knocked out a too-brief opening set with his trio - Carl Dufrene (bass) and Eric Bolivar (drums) – that focused on powerhouse jamming over songs, an appropriate tactic given the KDTU fans in attendance and especially effective on a grinding cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer”.
Osborne then joined KDTU for the Sticky Fingers set, and provided just the right attitude, snarling vocal prowess and unruly guitar energy. No one onstage looked traditionally “rocker” besides Osborne, with only keyboardist David Veith able to pass for the sort of folks one usually sees knocking out Stones covers. While it may seem a small, trivial thing to some, the look and indefinable feel of rock ‘n’ roll is intrinsically wrapped up in Sticky Fingers, a work whose attitude, art direction and sneering creators helped birth what we now call classic rock. Osborne’s presence and incredible vibe tapped into this source stuff and made the enterprise feel right.
|Anders Osborne by Susan J. Weiand|
None of this is said to slight Denson and his band. The playing, particularly Karl’s ever-evolving vocal skills and the precise, knockout playing of guitarist DJ Williams, was a pleasure on “Brown Sugar” (introduced by Denson as “a song about interracial sex”), a New Orleans inflected “You Gotta Move”, a strutting take on “Bitch”, and an extended, vaguely psychedelic “Sister Morphine”. But each time Osborne took the mic things really veered into the terrific. The pain and raunchy intent of these songs breathe anew with Anders’ lungs behind them, and his passion juiced the rest of the players into stomping good work. It shows Denson’s wisdom as a bandleader to tap such an ideal sparring partner while expanding the public impression of what his group is capable of.
KDTU returned after the Sticky Fingers set to play originals and fan favorites, and even welcomed up Eric McFadden to shred with them. It was business as usual for the Tiny Universe and their larger than life leader, but the takeaway from this night is how Karl D seems anxious to build beyond what’s been. More power to him in these efforts.
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