Bowlive III: Night Five 3.3.12
Words By Karen Dugan (www.tinyrager.com)
Photo By Rob Chapman
Saturday afternoon at the Brooklyn Bowl, Soulive participated in their first Kids Rockers Bowl, an annual event for all ages held in various venues around the nation. Craig Baldo and Rober Hailes hosted the show, designed to bring families together to experience engaging artists and comedians. There was a joking banter between the hosts and the audience before they invited children on stage to sing a few songs of their choice. The children sang “Twinkle, Twinkle,” “Sesame Street,” and there was even an original composition sung by the adorable 4 year old Maxamillion to the tune of ABC’s that he wrote for his mother.
Eventually, Soulive, comprised of guitarist Eric Krasno, drummer Alan Evans and organist Neal Evans, came out and the party got started as they performed “So Live.” Kid Rockers artists generally play original compositions for the adults allowing the children to “just rage” as explained by the hosts. Karl Denson joined the stage for “Turn it Out” while little ones played Twister on the dance floor, bowled and ate the Brooklyn Bowl’s amazing Mac and Cheese! Nigel Hall came out for the remainder of the set for “Too Much,” Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It,” and finally Hall’s original, “Gimmie A Sign.” Throughout the songs, Hall altered the lyrics for the children singing positive life lessons about sharing, not needing multiple pieces of candy and playing nicely. The entire show was totally amusing.
It was such a different experience seeing children of all ages running around, screaming, blowing bubbles, playing Keep Away with balloons and engaging in a band their parents love. There were children on stage with maracas and dancing all around the speakers. At the end of the set, Soulive had a question/answer segment. Various children asked the band members about their favorite song (no one could give a real answer); if they enjoyed Jam Cruise (wonderful responses from the band on this one) and other fun questions.
It must be mentioned that the most beautiful part of this afternoon performance was that after years of attending live shows with your various music loving friends, the ability to get to know their children bridged a social gap in Soulive’s fan base. Our children created new friendships and play dates were scheduled. Our children were involved in a band their parents loved and new generations of fans were groomed to follow in our footsteps! It was a beautiful thing but the party wasn’t over yet. Fans headed home to rest up, pass their children to a babysitter and head back to the Brooklyn Bowl for the last evening show of the first week run. Marco Benevento and Jennifer Hartswick were the special guests for the evening.
Saturday night was the first night Bowlive scheduled an opener. The Nigel Hall Band spilled out on the stage around 8:45pm to an unusually early packed house. Hall had quite the entourage! Following keyboardist, vocalist and band leader Nigel Hall on stage was back-up vocalists Alecia Chakour (The Warren Haynes Band) and Mel Flannery (Mel Flannery Trucking Co.), saxophonist James Casey (6Figures), guitarist Adam Smirnoff (Lettuce), trumpeter and vocalist Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band), trumpeter Matt Owen (Tim Blane Band) and Eric Krasno played bass while Neal Evans played his tri-level keyboard rig. The newest addition to the Hall line-up was Louis Cato (6Figures, Marcus Miller, Brian McKnight) who replaced Adam Deitch (BreakScience) on drums for the evening.
The massive group on stage warmed up with “Hang It Up” followed by “Baby I’m Coming Home” where Nigel pulled out a solo on his Moog that easily showed how much his talent has grown since touring with The Warren Haynes Band this past summer. “Never Know” was next with Adam Smirnoff kicking off the first shredding guitar solo of the night into “Never Gonna Let You Go.” Saturday night’s audience also got to hear Hall’s latest composition titled “Try,” a song that delivers a firm message to get your life together. The soulful vocals of Mel Flannery, Alecia Chakour and Jennifer Hartswick were phenomenal and flowed seamlessly into Nigel’s vocals which are an integral part of his tight, soulful and romantic sound. Hall ended his set with “Too Sweet” and “Gimmie A Sign,” this time leaving the adult lyrics intact and garnering a shouting applause.
Soulive’s first set started out with the trio continuing off the high-energy from Nigel’s set with “Outrage” and “Bubble,” both from their 2007 album No Place Like Soul. Special guest vocalist Jennifer Hartswick joined the stage with her trumpet along with James Casey and Matt Owen for the horn-heavy “Vapor,” a tune which Soulive audiences rarely see performed live unless there is a trumpet present.
The evening’s second special guest, experimental pianist/organist Marco Benenvento, entered the stage next, playing on “Hat Trick.” James Casey delivered, yet again, a fiery saxophone solo that had audience members shouting at the top of their lungs and the female potency given off by Jennifer Hartswick was comforting. There aren’t many female musicians that can live up to the standards that the male members of Soulive demand so to see Jennifer Hartswick dominating the stage this weekend was a real treat. It just got better and better as she came to the front of the stage and displayed her powerhouse vocals for Ray Charles’s “Drown in My Tears.” This led into The Beatles “Revolution,” where Marco Benevento was allowed to shine and completely own the stage. Neal Evans and Benevento were left alone to enjoy a duet that became a trippy, psychedelic trance as they played off each other. A beautiful part of Bowlive is hearing your favorite Soulive tunes grow into something new based on the special guests joining with their personal musical influence. The experimental jazz style of Benevento against Neal Evans’ heavy-handed deep organ was fantastic and even though it was jazzy, it didn’t lighten the intensity of the song one bit, it was simply enhanced.
The second set started around midnight with a few more original compositions by Soulive. At the end of “Uncle Jr.,” Alan Evans invited drummer/bassist Louis Cato to the stage. Alan moved to a guitar while Cato played the drums for Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression,” an absolute gem of a cover. Cato, who has extensive talent playing the bass and drums, crushed a drum solo so intense that drum sticks were left broken and if the audience had been sitting down, surely they would have stood for an ovation. Instead, they jumped in their standing positions and screamed praises at Cato who was humbly thankful.
The last few songs of the night ensured the explosive evening would be seared into our brains. The entire night had been one giant bowl (no pun intended) of high-energy music, vigorous dancing, cheek-breaking smiling and full-body raging. It was the weekend which brings high expectations and even though the musicians on stage brought just as much energy to this set as they had in the previous nights, the feedback from the sold-out crowd was entirely more powerful, allowing the musicians to engage in a deeper musical strength. They ended the set with Hartswick gracing the stage for an AMAZING rendition of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Dazed and Confused!” Krasno and Marco Benevento absolutely tore this song up Jimmy Page style while Hartswick vocals sounded so smooth and sensual that both men and women were swooning. During the chorus, the musicians on stage fell into a mind-bending flow that helped everyone reach a musical hypnotic state.
The chosen tune for the encore cemented Saturday night as the best night of the run. This was made true by the epic song choices, the fact that the Brooklyn Bowl was sold out with rabid super fans and the fact that the musicians on stage were having such a blast. Soulive and their special guests ended the set with “The Ocean,” an instrumental Zepplin tune that showcased everyone’s amazing skill. Everyone knows that Led Zepplein is the ultimate rock band and you have to have some musical chops to even come close to reaching the height of what that song can become. Soulive and guests dripped with enthusiasm as they ended their night.
The first week of Bowlive III was intense, engaging and full of musical vitality. Soulive began their run with guitarists John Scofield and Luther Dickinson, following with the funky Karl Denson, Big Sam and Rahzel, and ending with Jennifer Hartswick and Marco Benevento. Soulive fans experienced jazz, hip-hop, soul, funk, and psychedelic, experimental rock. The second week of Bowlive continues tomorrow night with special guests Skerik, Allen Stone and Zach Deputy. Let the party continue!