By Andy J. Gordon
Los Angeles clubs regularly book talent from New Orleans, but it was a rare treat to see two of the four original Meters performing within a week of each other at the Mint. Leo Nocentelli, the original Meters guitarist, brought together an all-star group to form a special version of his Meters Experience. Less than one week later the Mint hosted Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste and his band. Modeliste was the original drummer of the Meters and is considered by many to be the father of modern funk drumming. Both shows drew heavily from the Meters catalog, and fans appreciated the opportunity to hear the two legends perform their classic hits as well as other funky material.
The Meters (with George Porter Jr. on bass, and Art Neville on keyboards) broke up in 1977, but did some reunion shows in 2005. Since then, each of the four artists has performed separately with other bands and collaborators. Leo Nocentelli (www.nocentelli.com) has been touring extensively and performing with a supporting band dubbed the Meters Experience. Each January, many prominent musicians and industry pros come to the LA area for the NAMM (International Music Products Association) convention that takes place in Orange County. In 2010, Nocentelli took advantage of the abundance of musical talent in the area and formed a one night superjam at the Mint (www.themintla.com.) It was so successful that he pulled it together in 2011 with the same lineup. Stanton Moore (www.stantonmoore.com), the drummer for Galactic and several other funk/rock/jambands and Bill “Buddha” Dickens (www.billthebuddhadickens.com), the amazing bassist (Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, Chaka Kahn, etc.) reprised their roles from last year’s show. Also sitting in on percussion was Lenny Garcia.
The Nocentelli show drew heavily from the Meters catalog. Classics like “Fire on the Bayou,” “Africa,” “People Say,” and “Hey Pocky-a-Way” showcased Nocentelli’s blistering guitar wizardry. Moore, as always, pounded his drum kit with a unique combination of power, style, and funkiness. Dickens, who plays a seven string bass, offered solid rhythm support and freakish finger dexterity. The show kept the audience dancing, swaying and singing along to the classics.
Five days later, Modeliste (www.zigaboo.com) came to the Mint with a stellar supporting band. He introduced them as Jimmy Kimmel’s rhythm section. Sure enough, the stage was filled by Kimmel band members Jimmy Earl on bass, Toshi Yanagi on guitar, and Jeff Babko on keyboards. Modeliste handled all of the vocals while driving the funky beat. Meters classics like “Cissy Strut,” “Funky Miracle,” “Just Kissed My Baby,” and “Africa” emphasized Modeliste’s dynamic rhythmic style. The band also performed excellent covers of soul/funk classics like the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” and Earl King’s “Big Chief Pt. 1.” The band members provided solid support, but the show was definitely all about Zigaboo.
It was very interesting to hear different interpretations of the classic Meters material. The Nocentelli show had a prominent emphasis on lead guitar. Modeliste’s show highlighted his forceful rhythmic style that has influenced so many drummers over the years. Each show was a virtuoso performance by two amazing musicians that seem to have lost nothing as the years pass by. The only thing missing from each show was the presence of the other original Meters. Nothing would beat another true Meters reunion show. In order to catch that, you will have to go the 2011 Bonnaroo festival (www.bonnaroo.com) in Manchester, Tennessee. It was just announced that the four original Meters will reunite for the festival. They will play a complete set and support Dr. John for a performance of his 1974 album “Desitively Bonnaroo” for which the festival takes its name. I hope the guys enjoy the reunion and decide to tour together. If you can get to Bonnaroo or the band comes to your town, don’t miss the chance to see them live. It may be the last chance for dedicated followers and a new generation of music fans to see the incredible Meters live, while they all still have their musical chops.
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon