There aren’t very many funk bands touring today that manage to reach the level of loyalty and love that fans have for the Royal Family bands. The crowd at the Fillmore was varied in age and music taste, but they definitely had at least one thing in common- they came to dance. After living in the Bay Area for a bit, this author has heard and seen (many times) that it really takes something special to get the crowd moving out here. The Friday night show, with special guests the London Souls as well as Soulive’s Shady Horns, was a seriously funky booty shaker where guests would be challenged to stand still.
The weekend’s two-night run was one of a handful of “Royal Family Ball” shows, in which Soulive and Lettuce (which share some members) both performed. RF electronic duo Break Science even came out to play the after party at Yoshi’s around the corner.
The opener kicked off early, a bit too early, and by the time fans were flooding in Soulive was taking the stage. Drummer Alan Evans is smooth and loose but delivers crisp and bouncy beats. Neal Evans on the organs had an amazing stage present to compliment his funked out old school style. Frontman and guitar player Eric Krasno looks and sounds like he showed up in a time machine from a 1960’s blues club. The passion in his playing and be seen in his face and heard in his delivery.
The band played mostly originals that ranged from jazzy guitar-highlighting pieces to full blown improv throwdowns with solos coming at you from all angles. To the crowd’s delight they played a few tracks off of their Rubber Soulive album (a fun take on classics by The Beatles). They played a nice, long set that had the crowd more than warmed up for Lettuce.
Lettuce, a seven-person ensemble, met at Berkelee College in Boston way back in 1992. Twenty years later they are still bringing the heat.Their tour supports their 2012 album “Fly”. The band has described their previous album “Rage!” as a “tantalizing tribute to funk music — paying homage to all stripes of funksters, including James Brown, Sly Stone, Herbie Hancock, Tower of Power, the Meters, Earth Wind & Fire, Parliament Funkadelics, J Dilla — music that reflects our way of life.”
Their show also paid homage to the greats, delivering a tribute to old school funk in a fresh way. Bassist Erick E.D. Coomes stole the show with his over the top physical performance while the Shady Horns carried on in the back letting their sounds speak for them selves. Though they share some members Lettuce has less of a bluesy take on the music and is closer to Soul Train than soul food.
Overall the show was a long night of dancing and fun improv, but that was just the beginning. Both bands returned the next night for round two of the Royal Family Ball.
Though there were no complaints to be hears about the music, the venue was not so accommodating to the fans. Bad attitudes from the security staff were out of place at the otherwise FUNk show and the well known Fillmore should not allow their power tripped staff to ride along on their good reputation. Artists take note- there are way friendlier (and cooler) venues in the Bay!
Meghan Bender | Senior Writer