For six years now, Soulive has held a residency at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York. Known as Bowlive, the run of concerts sees the three-piece jazz / funk outfit inviting loads of special guests along to perform a unique show each night.
A couple nights ago, the special guest billed was none other than Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. Hundreds of concert-goers flocked to the venue to catch the rare collaboration between Robinson and Soulive, which just recently debuted at the Bear Creek Music Festival in Florida. It worked out so well that C-Rob had to link back up for a pair of shows during this year's Bowlive run.
While Bowlive celebrates unique collaborations, the band always kicks things off as a trio. It's a nice reminder of how incredible they are by themselves, before they hook up with whoever else is in the house that night.
After the warm-up, the Shady Horns were invited to the stage. Comprised of Ryan Zoidis and Eric Bloom, this passionate brass section really kicks things up a notch alongside Soulive. Of course, guitarist Eric Krasno has no shortage of experience working alongside Zoidis and Bloom, as the three play together in Boston-bred funk outfit Lettuce. The chemistry translates effortlessly, but powerfully.
Soulive's "Tuesday Night Squad" was a fitting choice for the Tuesday night crowd, and it sandwiched an instrumental cover of James Brown's "Bewildered." After that, it was time to make way for Chris Robinson, saxophone player Cochemea Gastelum, and backup vocalists Sasha Ortiz and Maya Sharpe.
Otis Redding's "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" kicked off the collaborative affair while giving the crowd their first taste of Robinson's soulful vocals. The Grateful Dead's "West L.A. Fadeaway" made an appearance shortly after that, sparking the Deadheads in the crowd to rush up to the stage and sing along. The three singers absolutely crushed it, and it brought a great contrast to the first portion of the set, which was comprised of funky instrumentals.
A cover of Joe Cocker's "Space Captain" served as a heartfelt tribute to the English singer who sadly passed back in December of 2014. "Get Out Of My Life (Woman)," a song by Allen Toussaint made famous to many by the Jerry Garcia Band, followed. Chris Robinson is deeply rooted in the Grateful Dead's culture, as the Black Crowes have opened for the Dead in the past, headlined a Furthur festival, and C-Rob is part of Phil Lesh's rotating cast of Friends. It was apparent that a lot of Deadheads were in attendance. This was made even more evident when "Sugaree" followed.
As an absolute classic, "Sugaree" has been covered endlessly, but this version with Chris Robinson was special. You can tell Robinson really loves the song as he put his own twist on it, dancing around like a flower child during the moments he wasn't singing or playing guitar. With his flowing hair and soulful voice, he looks, sounds, and feels the part as well as anyone who has taken a stab at the Hunter / Garcia tune since Jerry's passing in 1995.
The wildcard of the set came directly after in the form of "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones. The uptempo rock track was given a unique flavor by the artists, and Krasno let a solo rip on a night that was otherwise dominated mostly by vocal-driven songs.
To end the night, the group encored Bobby Bland's classic R&B track "Turn On Your Love Light," another tune made famous in the jam scene by the Grateful Dead. Everyone was on stage as Soulive brought out Chris Robinson, the background singers, the Shady Horns, and even Ross James of the Terrapin Family Band, just in case the Dead-ties weren't strong enough throughout the night. It was a blast of energy, as the upbeat rendition echoed throughout the bowling-alley-concert-venue, and everybody walked out the door with a smile on their face.
Bowlive VI continues this week with Anders Osborne, George Porter Jr., and Marco Benevento as special guests. Tickets for the Brooklyn Bowl shows are available directly through TicketFly.