Col. Bruce Hampton & Aquarium Rescue Unit Returns In Baltimore

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Images & Words by: Stu Kelly

Col. Bruce Hampton & Aquarium Rescue Unit with John McLaughlin + Paul Reed Smith Band :: 6.5.15 :: Rams Head Live :: Baltimore, MD

Read on after the gallery for videos and Stu’s review.

Aquarium Rescue Unit’s musical roots run as deep as a one hundred year old magnolia tree. The signature blend of Southern rock, blues, jazz and funk the band has been crafting since the early 1990s has always breathed limitless potential and today, more so than ever, the music holds true over time. ARU paved their own musical legacy organically and the band’s take on so many sacred genres has always produced the most intriguing results. Aquarium Rescue Unit especially shined on the H.O.R.D.E tour in the summer of 1992, working with other adept artists such as the Spin Doctors, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler and Phish.

On Friday the band returned to the stage for their first headlining concert since 2011. This wasn’t the first time ARU came out of a hiatus, but with a string of shows booked from late-July through mid-August, Aquarium Rescue Unit will continue to cement their legacy and spread their music starting in Colorado, making their way through the South, eventually heading up the east coast to New York.

Friday evening’s concert was especially unique because it was in conjunction with the 30th anniversary celebration of PRS Guitars, and the Paul Reed Smith Band opened the show. Jimmy Herring sat in with the PRS Band and was all smiles to be spending that time on stage. After his set, Paul came out and formally welcomed Aquarium Rescue Unit to the stage as they were met with a roaring response from the crowd.

The band moved through many classic staples such as “Compared to What,” “Working on a Building,” “Basically Frightened” and many more. One of the first surprises to come was when the band dropped “Fixin’ to Die” early in the first set. As the opening chords took form and the rhythm started to build, a nice wave of people lost in their dance moves took form right in front of the stage. Col. Bruce sang with conviction and the rest of the band was notably vibrant and really happy to be on stage with each other once again. Herring took one of his covenant solos of raw power and piercing precision right out of the gates. Matt Slocum on keys and Oteil Burbridge on the low end anchored Jeff Sipe’s work on the drums nicely as the band powered through this version.

As the band moved through their set, legendary jazz guitarist John McLaughlin sat in for a ripping version of “Time is Free,” which showcased the axe man seamlessly trading licks with Herring. Dennis Chambers crashed his drum kit and joined in for a nice spacey percussion jam with Jeff Sipe. It was only a matter of time before Paul Reed Smith graced the stage with his guitar and the Maryland native seized his opportunity on a stellar version of “Tun On Your Lovelight,” which also featured McLaughlin and Chambers as well. The ensemble of overflowing talent did the number justice and took a brief break before returning to encore with “Yield Not to Temptation.”

There couldn’t have been a better way to celebrate two legacies and the future is so bright for both Aquarium Rescue Unit and Paul Reed Smith.

Full ARU Video From “Fixin’ To Die” Onwards (via Goat Slop)

Setlist (via Alex Leary)

ARU Set: Payday, Time Flack, Fixin’ To Die, Compared To What, Black Bottom, Basically Frightened, Working On A Building, Time is Free*, Jazz Bank*, Give Thanks to Chank > Space is the Place&, Jack The Rabbit&, Turn On Your Lovelight%

Encore: Yield Not To Temptation %

* -with John McLaughlin on guitar
& -with John McLaughlin on guitar and Dennis Chambers on drums
% -with John McLaughlin on guitar, Dennis Chambers on drums, and Paul Reed Smith on guitar

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