By Andy J. Gordon
On May 14, 2011 Soulive and their supporting cast of label mates brought their Royal Family Ball to Club Nokia in downtown LA. The show included almost all of the artists that record on the Royal Family label and the crowd was treated to a night of pulsating sounds from a variety of lineups.
Soulive (www.soulive.com) has been on a lengthy tour across the country and the addition of their Royal Family mates added a new dimension to the usual mix of old-school funk, jazz, soul, and improvisation material. The short opening set featured Break Science (www.royalfamilyrecords.com/breakscience) and special guest Chali 2na (from Jurassic 5.) Break Science is Adam Deitch on drums and Borahm Lee using a laptop and turntables to create some creative electronic beats. After a short break, the warmed up crowd was ready for some heavy soul and funk when Soulive hit the stage. The trio consists of Eric Krasno on guitar, Alan Evans on drums, and brother Neal Evans on keyboards. They got things started with three funky instrumentals “Alladin,” “El Ron,” and “Turn It Out.” Soulive recently paid tribute to the Beatles with their 2010 album Rubber Soulive. Their versions of the Beatles songs are a brilliant interpretation of the original sound with a unique Soulive vibe. They played a medley from that album that started with “Come Together” which segued into “Something,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and closed with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Soulive’s sound lends itself nicely to the inclusion of horns, and occasional collaborators, the Shady Horns joined the party after the Beatles medley. Saxophonists’ James Casey (tenor) and Ryan Zoidis (baritone), together with trumpeter Rashawn Ross supported the band on a 70’s inspired soul tune, with Alan Evans taking a rare turn at lead vocals. The horn section stayed for the remainder of the set. They were joined onstage for one song by Ben Kenney (bassist for Incubus,) who traded lead guitar solos with Eric Krasno. The set closed with the instrumentals “Hat Trick,” “Vapor,” and “Tuesday Night Squad.” Each musician demonstrated their chops with sizzling solos and the three part horn section enhanced Soulive’s tight musical arrangements.
The last set was an overwhelming sonic onslaught from Lettuce (www.royalfamilyrecords.com/lettuce,) a group that includes members of Soulive, Break Science, the Shady Horns and a few additionally prolific musical friends. In comparison to Soulive’s tight trio of soulful funk, Lettuce delivered a musical stampede with six horn players, two guitarists, bass, drums, and keyboards. In addition to the brilliant Eric Krasno and Neal Evans, Adam Deitch pounded a heavy beat on drums. Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff added rhythm and lead guitar, and Erick “E.D.” Coomes’ thumping bass shook the walls of the club. The show opened with six horn players on stage and their tight arrangements were impressive. Three of the guest horns departed and the Shady Horns remained to complement the full sound of the band. Several songs from the 2007 release Rage kept the audience hopping. Krasno and Smirnoff traded killer guitar solos, and the low end rumble from Neal Evans and Coomes boomed throughout the venue. Charli 2na came out for some hip hop vocals over the funky beat and the show closed with the band blasting through some heavy soul infused tunes.
The Royal Family Ball was a musical family reunion that brought together some amazingly talented artists. The Soulive guys have formed a musical vibe with this family that blends the best of classic soul, funk, rock, and modern influences. Their live show should not be missed.
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon