By Andy J. Gordon
On December 16, 2010 Soulive (www.soulive.com) rocked the Roxy Theater with a little help from their talented friends, Nigel Hall, and Karl Denson. The band has been on a lengthy tour across the country. The LA show offered a mix of their old funk, jazz, and improvisation material, as well as highlights from their new tribute album, Rubber Soulive. That album reinterprets the Beatles classics. Nigel Hall, a brilliant vocalist and keyboard player is part of Soulive’s stable of talent at Royal Family Records, their own label. Karl Denson (www.karldenson.us,) who is a saxophone wizard, as well as accomplished flutist and vocalist, joined the band for a few of the tour stops including the one at the Roxy in LA.
Soulive features original members Eric Krasno on guitar, Alan Evans on drums, and his brother Neal Evans on Hammond B3 organ. They have been together for eleven years and frequently collaborate with a variety of artists in the music community. Nigel Hall has been a featured performer with the band and other members of the extended Royal Family. Hall opened the show with a short set. Alan and Neal Evans provided support on drums and keys. Hall told the audience that his new Royal Family record release will come out on February 2, 2011 and he played one of the new songs. His brief set showcased his soulful and powerful voice, as well as his talents on the keyboards.
After a short break, Soulive came out for their headlining set. They started with three funky instrumentals “Hat Trick”, “Turn It Out” and “El Ron.” Alan Evans began a drum solo that led into a Beatles medley from their 2010 release Rubber Soulive. They opened with “Come Together” which segued into “Something,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and closed with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” The band’s reinterpretation of these classics is inspired. While retaining the fundamental melodies, the band makes each tune a tribute to the original while infusing their funky, soulful elements that define the band.
The crowd was really amped up after the set of Beatles tunes. Alan turned up the energy by introducing Karl Denson, who came out to loud applause. He launched into a blazing saxophone solo on “Cannonball.” For the next song, “Shaheed,” Denson played the flute and exchanged searing solos with Krasno. Just when things seemingly could not possibly get better, Hall came back out for lead vocals on the Royal Family mainstay “Do the 2,” which put the crowd into a frenzy. They followed that with “Too Much,” a song that Hall recorded with Soulive in 2009 on the album Up Here. “Too Much” sounds like a James Brown standard, and Hall sang with a passion that would have made Brown proud. With sweat dripping off the band members and the audience, things had to slow down. The band mellowed things out a little with the Tears For Fears cover “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The set closed with the instrumental “Tuesday Night’s Squad.” Denson did another scorching sax solo and Hall joined Neal Evans at his keyboard setup for some alternating organ riffing.
Everyone came back out for the encore. The Curtis Mayfield classic “Move On Up” received the Royal Family treatment, which meant Krasno, Denson, and Neal Evans each nailed sizzling solos. After the song ended the guys huddled on stage like they were deciding the last play of a football game. They broke the huddle and launched into a passionate rendition of Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Joy & Pain.” The show ended to thunderous applause and lots of smiles. All Soulive shows are a treat, but when the trio expands with talented guests, something truly special happens. Hall and Denson added so much soul, funk, and heart to the musical soup that the Roxy nearly boiled over. It was an amazing show that solidified Soulive as a live act that should not be missed.
Photo courtesy of Andy J. Gordon.