By Andy J. Gordon
On Thursday, September 17, Soulive (www.soulive.com) shook the El Rey Theater with their unique blend of soul, funk, jazz, and improvisation. The band celebrated both their tenth album, and their ten-year anniversary. The New York-based band released “Up Here” on their brand new label, Royal Family Records, earlier this year. Some talented friends that performed on the new release were on stage to support the band.
Soulive’s latest lineup features original members Eric Krasno on guitar (shown above), Alan Evans on drums, and his brother Neal Evans on Hammond B3 organ. Joining them were original member Sam Kininger on alto sax, with Ryan Zoidis (who played with the band from 2003-2006) on tenor sax (now performing under the alias “The Shady Horns”), and soul singer Nigel Hall.
Hall opened the show with a solo performance on organ. He told the audience that it was his 28th birthday, and that he was thrilled to share his special day with the fans in L. A. His wide-ranging, booming voice really captivated the crowd. After a few songs, guitarist Eric Krasno came on stage, to the apparent surprise of Hall – and the audience. They did a moving duet, trading guitar licks with vocal acrobatics. Krasno departed, and the Evans brothers joined Hall on stage to close out the warm-up set.
After a few minutes, Soulive came out for their headlining set of blazing funk and soul. They started with new instrumentals “Upright,” “Hat Trick,” and “For Granted.” Before launching into “Alladin” from 2003’s self-titled release, Alan Evans introduced a special guest, trumpeter Rashawn Ross. Ross has been touring with the Dave Matthews Band, is a member of Lettuce (as are Krasno, Zoidis, Kininger and Neal Evans), and was a Soulive member from 2003 to 2006. He delivered a blistering solo, and accompanied “The Shady Horns” for a couple of songs before departing. Hall came back out to sing “Too Much,” one of the songs that he contributed to on the new release. Next up was a faster, funkier version of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered”.
Hall left the stage and the next few instrumentals allowed each band member to demonstrate his soloing skills. Both Kininger and Zoidis blasted long funky sax solos. Neal Evans kept the crowd bouncing with the hypnotic bass lines delivered by his electronic keyboards. His solo efforts on the Hammond B3 were creative, and beautifully complimented the lead guitar work offered by Krasno. Alan Evans started “Backwards Jack” with a blistering drum solo. The band then supported Krasno on a long solo during “Cannonball” from 2001’s “Doin’ Something.” Hall came back for one energized final song that gave everyone on stage a chance to shine.
After nearly two hours, the band said goodnight and took a collective bow. After a brief departure, the cheering crowd brought them back out with Hall for an encore. They really tore it up with a James Brown tribute that left everyone thrilled and sweaty.
Soulive has built a reputation as one of the most innovative soul/funk trios. On that memorable night recently in Los Angeles, with some special friends on hand, they proved that their rep is richly deserved.
Photos courtesy Scott Mitchell Photography, www.scottmitchellphotography.com