Many anecdotes have been flying around the last month or so as to where many of us had been for a few, if not all, of the NYE's in the 90's. There was nowhere else I wanted to be but Irving Plaza to study more of the phenomenal work that is Soulive. Before the guys walk out, the setup might seem unusual with an average sized drum kit, a single Hammond B-3 organ and a stool in between. Although many of their songs start off with very accessible
phrases, that's just the lollipop to lure you into a funhouse I could be lost within forever and never have a second thought or regret about it. Soulive will turn every one of your expectations on it's ear, defying categorization or labels. If you need a simpler way by which you can refer to them, it's just SOOOOOOOOOOOLIVE!!! As drummer Alan Evans puts it, they will "put some soul in your bowl" and an Arabian prince's treasure trove's worth more.
Opening for Maceo Parker on Saturday and for the early show last night, the boys gave the venue's heating system a severe kick in the ass with the amount of body heat their music generated. Still sore from running with Karl Denson's Tiny Universe the previous three nights, all of my aches and pains were quickly forgotten as soon as the first few notes of Steppin' began - a nice introduction for you if you haven't heard them yet from their debut album, Turn It Out. As the front man, Alan steps up from the drum set to talk to the audience, wish a good time and drop the song titles so everyone can get a bit more familiar and into the group feel of their gigs. As he spoke, a few requests for Uncle Junior came from the audience and they were so into it that guitarist Eric Krasno began licking before Alan could sit back down. No worries, though, because Soulive
is all about the unified power of 18 wheels, a 4th of July fireworks display at the Statue of Liberty and the grace of a swooping kite on a sunny day all at the same time. Although I usually keep my eyes closed and let the music ruminate in what's left of my brain, I do love to watch all three of these guys go at it. Off to the right, keep a peg on Neal Evans on the Hammond, bopping up, down and all over the place, smiling as wide as he can, laughing and groaning in the euphoric nature of his lines and how well both his brother and Eric Krasno's guitar interact with him. Even without looking at
them, their music will quickly fix jumper cables to your brain and your entire nervous system. The visuals of Eric craning his neck, contorting his face as he gets into it and Alan unleashing himself (at an average of five or six sets of sticks per hour) onto the drums combined with their music had me rolling into uncontrollable laughter like the ecstatically satisfied village idiot I most want to be.
Down from Boston, The Squad's Sam Kininger sat in on saxophone for a cover of the Isley Brothers' song It's Your Thing during the first two of the three sets they played. On Saturday, Sam also contributed generously to a song entitled Cannonball you'll hear on Soulive's next album due out in March from Blue Note Records. It's a tune that fully lives up to the old adage that something has to be bad to be good but, in this case, the good intentions are all over their dig down deep and nasty groove which they held on to for longer than they do in most of their epic songs.
Setting things up for Maceo again at last night's 7 o'clock show, the guys tossed Doin' Something which opens a window for Eric to flirt with Herbie Hancock's Chameleon and play with what I guess is a harmonizer that works his voice nicely against his always sonically engaging skills on the strings. Opening with another new song called Shaheedy and closing with one of their most intense creations which aptly tells so much of what Soulive is about
(called So Live!) they kept up a pace that couldn't be equalled by the most well trained Olympic runner and left me looking for a resting spot to gather myself. One of the many things I enjoy in the flow of their music is how they shift gears while retaining the high levels so that you really have to be on your toes to boogie with them. Then, one of them will pull that ace out of their sleeve and WHAM!!! Our generation has been criticized for our
apparently short attention spans but I look at that as a natural course in evolution. Slow and spare definitely can be done very appealingly in live performances but it seems to me that Soulive is more like getting the entire candy store for the same price you'd put down for a single Mars bar.
By the time their early morning set started, some of the more Maceo oriented crowd had already moved on but their numbers were replaced by music addicts who'd been elsewhere in the city and knew what was going down at Irving. Coming on around 3 in the morning, Right On was an indication to me that 2001 is going to be a fabulous year. I know I was fairly spent at that point so deep thanx to Eric, Alan & Neal for coming back out and giving us that much more which elated everyone who experienced it. Soulive is one of those truly beautiful stories that we love. Genuinely good, happy and generous human beings taking the stage to share some of the most challenging and mind expanding music you'll hear. I humbly implore everyone who reads this to check them out and add another source of fine fun to the growing list of artists out there who will satisfy your inner music maniac. And, when you do, make sure to stop by the merchandise table and give Peter a big, sloppy, wet kiss.
Soulive will be taking January off but you can find them in early February at any part of an eight date tour which begins at Maryland's Towson University with Project Logic. From there they will soar through Virginia, Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, so search out the details and meet up with these guys if you're so inclined.
After that, it's off to the Blue Note in Japan which takes them through early March. For the next few weeks, though, you can find Eric Krasno gigging every Wednesday at Wetland's Preserve as part of lettuce with a rich list of guests from Topaz to Wayne Krantz as well as the Izzy Bar this Thursday, 1/4, playing with Ekene and the rest of the lineup that spread
the joy at the Winter Soulstice event. The future is as wide open for Soulive as the pool from which they draw their inspiration. I hope that 2001 and beyond provides you with the same kind of stimulation that these three guys can create because an active mind is one that can produce many things of value to everyone in the global society.
JamBase NYC Correspondent
Go See Live Music!