My New Year's party started a little early with Robert Randolph & The Family Band at The National on Wednesday, 12/30. My review may be a little sketchy at points. I tried to find a setlist for the show online but had no luck. I really should start to bring a notepad to take notes but its hard to write, drink a beer and dance at the same time.
RRFB started the show with a blues-funk number that didn't really take off until the jam at the end of the song when they went into a gospel groove and really got the crowd moving. The show was off and running, the crowd was ready to party and away we went. Some highlights of the show:
- the mostly instrumental version of "Jesus Is Just Alright With Me" (Doobie Brothers, Byrds), with Robert's slide guitar "singing" the lyrics.
- "Deliver Me", my favorite song from the latest album, with guest Richmond Dude #2 on guitar (more on him later).
- The jam of "Who Knows" > "Every Little Step" > gospel tune. Only Robert Randolph could pull off a Hendrix tune into a jazzed up instrumental version of a Bobby Brown (?!?) song into gospel and totally make it work.
- "Ain't Nothin' Wrong With That", another great song off of the latest album, to close the set. A guaranteed party anthem thanks to the cool handclaps and guitar riff.
- The encore jam including numerous references to Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile", an instrumental jam on Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" (with the crowd providing the "Mamma-say Mamma-sa Mamafusa" parts) mixing in the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Can't Stop".
- The bass player, Danyel Morgan, who kicked ass all night, laying down the funk and also providing falsetto back-up vocals.
Some mediocrelights, not really lowlights but stuff I could have done without.
- The band started to play "Shake Your Hips", the Rolling Stones/Slim Harpo song and invited ladies from the audience to dance on stage. As much as I like to see ladies dance, there always seemed to be one who wanted to feel up Robert as he was playing and he had to tell them in no uncertain terms to step back. This whole gimmick seemed more annoying to Robert and the band then inspiring. I've seen the band do this before and I assume this is a regular thing with them. It may have worked in a smaller place but it seemed to go on way too long and wasn't really pushing the band. It also didn't help that, as my friend Phil put it, "that ain't Richmond's finest dancing up there".
- Another gimmick when Robert (playing regular electric guitar) invited a dude up from the audience, we'll call him Richmond Dude #1, to accompany the band on guitar. Dude #1 was OK and they noodled around a little bit. Dude #1 got a good hand and I thought that would be it. But then Dude #2 was invited on stage. He was better than Dude #1 and seemed to blend with the band a little better. But then the band went into "Deliver Me" and Robert invited the Dude #2 to stay on stage. By this time, Dude#2 seemed to be overwhelmed by the experience and/or didn't know the song and he just faded into the background but was still kind of distracting. If they must do this, keep it to one dude. At least I know to go get a beer next time. It was no surprise that after the second gimmick was over, actually once they started"Deliver Me", the band seemed to kick into a higher gear for the rest of the show.
Overall, an excellent show, 3.5 out of 4 stars if you like stars.
In other news, the remaining members of the Grateful Dead have reformed as The Dead and will be doing a spring tour. They have a few shows near us: 4/12 in Greensboro NC, 4/14 in DC, 4/15 in Charlottesville. In fact, those are the first three shows of the tour. For more info, go here: http://dead.net/dead09. Or watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCB_GVjay8A. Pre-sale of tickets through dead.net starts on Tuesday, 1/13, then tickets go on sale nationwide on Friday, 1/23.
That's about it for this week. Have a great weekend!