Review: 2017-09-30 - Brooklyn Bowl - Brooklyn, NY
First off, hats off to the venue. Everything about Brooklyn Bowl works and flows, the staff are uber friendly, and the room can be packed without feeling crowded. I only caught the tail end of Space Bacon, but what I heard sounded good. I will check them out for sure. Maybe someone who caught their full act can say more.
The boys came out and started us off with Shake You Loose. Man, I have to say one of the things I really love about Spafford that I think sets them apart is how well they blues. Jordan delivered the vocals beautifully and the whole song was smooth as smoke- great opener to get people moving and grooving.
Ain’t That Wrong kept it bluesy but sped it up several notches into the funk space, as it does so well. The song charged ahead with all of us chasing before breaking out into the first of many heady jams for the night. Whoaaa. The second or so movement of the jam is utterly joyful. The dancing took off and never looked back.
ON FIRE! I’ll say it, and I’ll mean it, until I somewhat contradict myself later, this is Spafford’s numero uno cover. I’ve never heard the original but this song is so blistering, funky, red-hot, and crushing. Red’s keys ripped through the air, Cam’s drumming was snappy and crisp, and Brian and Jordan drove the funk home with a sledgehammer. I don’t mean this in any derivative way, but during the first half of the ensuing jam I felt like I was lost in a funky alternate universe somewhere between “Shakedown Street” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”
The transition back to ATW was smooth and organic and emerged from the jam with a great climbing energy. The crowd went wild with recognition like a dog jumping in circles when their family pulls in the driveway.
The ever beautiful and uplifting Slip and Squander came next and was clearly greeted as a crowd favorite. Where heads were banging for ATW-ON FIRE, SnS summoned different body movements from the crowd, hearts were opening, heart strings were bending, kindness was emanating. I swear you could feel a collective relaxation and disinhibition taking hold. (Side note: When they opened Music Hall of Williamsburg on 2017-04-13 with SnS, I felt it had the same magical, liberating effect on the crowd setting off a feel-good, dance-fest kind of show. This song is special.)
It looked like the band was getting ready to break for the set, but Jordan quickly spoke with Brian and Red then the opening notes of Leave The Light On got the crowd stoked. Everyone swayed to the reggae rhythms before the happy little “doota doot-doots” lit the fuse on a groovy, low-end jam. I can say this for the whole show, but let me highlight here how incredible the lights were at creating a visual space to compliment the vibes. By the end when the song was going full supernova on the crowd with the final cries of “Leave the light on for me, lady / so in the darkness I can find my way home”, I thought to myself: my god, she left the light on but does she have any idea what kind of intensity is about to come crashing through her door??
The crowd resumes its position, with some new faces and bodies moving closer to stage, and the boys start it off with People. I can’t say enough how much I LOVE THIS SONG. The magic in the words (“So love’s the common binding of PEOPLE LIKE ME AND YOU”) comes through in the music and I felt this song picked up and finished off the liberating project that SnS began in Set 1. Looking around me, more and more people were moving with increased freedom, bopping in unison while experimenting with their own unique gestures to embody the music.
Well, if the room wasn’t hyped already, the opening chords of Electric Taco Stand saw everyone get down and dirty. So fast, so good. Everybody on stage shined and gave the crowd a lot of funk for the figuring. Around seven minutes in the band drops the tempo and starts building toward the indescribably beautiful gem of a sonic experience known as Alternate Ending. This song has been played 16 times, with 5 of those happening in 2017 and it’s only October. I hope this trend continues. Beautiful slide back into a raucous ETS conclusion—pure party music, people.
And speaking of parties… whereas ETS announced itself instantly, the next song snaked slowly into the room all smoky and mysterious. My mind was racing with possibilities and as soon as I heard IT I knew we were in for a treat. Earlier I said ON FIRE is Spaff’s blistering numero uno cover, and I meant it, but Down Under is ON FIRE’s wild art school friend who makes every party crazier. This song was beyond fun to dance. I think its return to the lineup is a sign of very good things. The jam here is incredible. I swore I heard an Alternate Ending tease from Brian at the show but can’t find it on relisten.
Encore (I think Brian goosed Cam on the walk back to his kit.. this felt important to share)
Beautiful Day, as always, touched the crowd and the room sang its heart out when invited by Red. You can feel the song resonating with everyone in the room and how could it not. In the midst of an incredible concert, with Red singing his heart out and everyone feeling on top of the world, we can look back on our day—the good the bad the ugly and amazing parts—and recognize it for what it is and nothing more-- a beautiful, fleeting miracle. I’m 5-for-5 with this song… will the streak continue at Hamden??
I had a feeling the show would end on a more rocking note and they couldn’t have chosen better than All In. This was one of my first favorite Spafford tunes. Red lights drenched the stage during the heavier sections and the sheer amount of head banging, fist pumping, arm waving, and jumping around was the perfect send off to a solid show.
Thank you Spafford, thank you crew, thank you Nerds. That was good soul food.
I’m sorry this is so long already but I have a couple more things I need to get off my chest:
How much longer will we live in this magical world where any night you can get as close to the stage as you want and connect with these amazing musicians???
My detailed notes on each individual band member’s performance:
> Jordan: killed it
> Red: killed it
> Brian: killed it
> Cam: killed it
Right on! Nice review!
Great review, thanks!
Johnny Love you are one funny writer!!! Can't wait to see you again!!
great review Johny Love. I agree completely about the accessibility... can this never change please? Since i realize this is the last tour with this level of intimacy most likely, I pleaded and got the OK from the wifey to hit State College next week with her (thought i was done for the year, woohoo). This will be her first, she was supposed to come to Foundry with me but couldnt:(
@PhillySpaffnerd cya there, the venue looks awesome
@Johnny-Love you had me busting up. Love the verbal color you've provided between the lines. It made me feel like I was there for the show that it broke my heart to miss. And I couldn't agree more about On Fire. It was an early favorite. I remember walking @Mustard up our old hill and listening to it on a chilly autumn evening. Slip and Squander is truly something special as well and there is a deep connection spiritually to People.
You're spot on too with the notion that it won't be much longer before we are separated from these guys by the gaps that exist between the stage and the fans at larger venues. It seems inevitable as they continue to destroy every show they go out and play. I keep hearing people say "I heard all this hype about Spafford... and it's true!" They are the whole package. Dynamic, powerful, patient, and passionate. They can make you move and make you cry. It's a truly special thing.
It means the world to me to see you enjoying Spafford. We were together at my first Phish show more than 20 years ago and you and I have tread through all of our major musical milestones (and some non-musical ones) together. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your story with us. Well done.
"Love's the common binding, for people like me and you."
You are amazing Johnny. I LOVED reading your review. Wish we could have raged that show together!!! Maybe someday... ❤️
@diana.quirin Likewise chica!! In Portland or Phoenix or NYC, it's gonna happen :)
@PhillySpaffnerd thanks man! I hope you guys have a killer show! i'm sure you will!
@lmwsongbird someday can't come soon enough! it's harvest season and our garden reap is so much less than last year, which seems sadly appropriate since you're not here to share it :( looking forward to TBL Fest!!!
@damian I love you buddy - thanks for bringing me to this music :)
@Johnny-Love To the ends of the earth my friend