Review: 2017-12-30 - Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ
Although the room seemed to be less crowded than the night before, the energy at tonight’s sold out show was palpable. We were just coming off a heater of a Friday night show and among the many friends and fans that I’ve talked to, throughout the weekend, they found excitement in the fresh new faces seen throughout the weekend. It’s telling of Spafford’s current upward and high-flying trajectory.
*Photo by Chris Clark
In the days before the show Saturday night was deemed “America Night” by some in the Spafford community (many dressed up in red white and blue or wore their Make America Jam Again hats). Of course, Spafford being the unpredictable band we love likely caught wind of this and decidedly played America in the second set the night before. Prior to the show some were confused over this conundrum, all was not lost! The Spaffnerds.com setlist starts with Shake You Loose, but the introduction to the show began with an instrumental recording of the Star Spangled Banner playing through the PA. The “America Night” fans rejoiced.
The night opened with Shake You Loose, a banger of a Texas shuffle. Cam really brought the swing on this one and you can really feel that energy transfer to the rest of the band, especially in the vocals and vocal harmonies.
The Remedy followed and something that I appreciate about Red’s soloing, and playing in general, is how full of grandeur his takes are. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the night. Cam cues the band out of the solo that takes us into a development section led by Brian. Even Brian takes full control and takes us away with his soaring leads before returning to the chorus before taking the song out.
My Road (My Road) again features amazing leads from Red. The tone on his synth is just so warm and so expressive, and so shred-y by the end. I say this with the most utmost respect, Cam was a total machine during this jam by pumping those dance beats until Brian took over and Red transported us to this ethereal plane contrasted by Cameron’s build-up. This jam was a highlight for me.
I woke up this morning with Catfish John on my mind so I was very happy to hear that this song made an appearance tonight.
It’s a Bunch was awesome. I hadn’t heard it before so I was pretty confused about what was going on as it was happening. It’s a very cool instrumental with a jam that seemingly does not have a beginning or end. Can’t really comment on too much of it as I should hear some more recordings of it.
On Fire was ON FIRE. Actually, I thought It’s A Bunch was a Jam>On Fire. It some ways it was, because It’s A Bunch was a great set up for the music that followed. By now most of the crowd has realized that this is THE funk night. And The Ball was tomorrow! The Funk was deep with this one.
Night After Night was fun hard rock/reggae/funk hybrid and a debut. Some of the folks around me thought it was a Red Hot Chili Peppers Cover, as did I. Again, Red CRUSHES the Synth and arrives to his solo’s peak by taking a sequence and ascends chromatically Ala Miles Davis or Woody Shaw. Truly epic.
Here begins Set 2. Red absolutely nailed Sister Christian. As soon as those opening words left his mouth, the room exploded with excitement. Immediately we were transported back to 1984. Many in the crowd took out and waved their lights in the air. Not all was complete until Brian faithfully recreated Brad Gillis’ guitar solo and for brief moment hair metal and glam rock were back in! Brian used his double cutaway gibson Les Paul for this cover.
At this point it’s pretty clear that Red is my MVP of the night. His tone on Backdoor Funk was reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter. It had a Fender Rhodes or Wurlitzer type sound but absolutely drenched in a phaser effect. Unlike Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter jams, Backdoor had lots and lots of space for the crowd to soak up in Red’s sound, and Brian compliments this space that’s created by the rest of the rhythm section by inserting short exclamations and long tones affected by his whammy pedal. For some spice, Cam throws in some glitch hi hat beats while laying down the 2 and 4 back beat. As we progress through the jam Brian takes over and leads us to another high peak before seemingly dropping us off the edge that takes us to the end of the song. Again, Another highlight in a show full of amazing moments.
Not much to say about All my Friends. I love the song, I've seen it open two shows, and its one of those songs I’ll never get tired of hearing. Each one is a good one.
Bee Jam was also pretty Epic. The band really takes their time with it and seem to pickup where they left off with Backdoor Funk and then went way farther with it! The jam starts with lots of space but veers off into very experimental territory (Perhaps this is the moment that foreshadows the next shows very experimental Aliens segment.) There are a lot of tempo variations in this jam which I find odd for Spafford, and we move and groove from funk into some more straight-ahead rock that Brian and Cam lead us through up until halfway through. Red and Cam pick us up and eventually guide us to Walls.
Walls does not feature the additional lyrics. Pretty standard version. Very funky.
Following Walls a very bouncing Lonely. Cameron slams the ride bell like there is no tomorrow and gets everyone pumped. We got a jam sandwich with this one. The middle of our sandwich featured a nice groove section similar to the rest of the song. The bread of our sandwich featured Brian letting loose. Really fun jam. Lonely only clocks in around 9 minutes but I also recommend this one.
*Photo by Amber Gwinn
This Postman is really good and has a nice swing to it driven most by Cameron but not much about stands out with it to me besides being well executed.
Tuesday’s Gone was just as epic as Sister Christian, only Brian takes lead vocals. Amazing way to end the night. Just like Sister Christian, Brian used his double cutaway gibson Les Paul.
This was my favorite show of the run. The Band (being four very humble and down to earth guys) might disagree, but you’d hard pressed to find a wrong note all night. The energy was through the roof and I so wish I could go back and do it all again. My top picks from the show are My Road, It’s A Bunch>On Fire, Back Door Funk, and Bee Jam.
As I mentioned earlier my MVP of the night is...
*Photo by Amber Gwinn
It’s a great show front to back though and the covers were awesome and worth checking out too.
I just finished listening to the whole run. I love each night on it’s own merits and this one has some incredible playing. As much as the band has gelled and are playing as a “whole” I agree that Red was the MVP of the weekend. He is prominently in the mix now (which was lacking early in fall tour...glad they got it fixed) and he put on a showcase. I consider him the Swiss Army knife of the band and throughout this run it seems like he was On Fire.
Great review man, loved reading your perspective on this wonderful evening of Music.
Great thoughts! Nice review, I feel like “palpable” energy is the weekends’ term for sure!!!
Amazing review, Andy. Your ability to describe the individual elements synthesizing the music is incredible and a joy to read- thanks! A great show, for sure. I loved the segue from It's A Bunch > On Fire ... it's such a change of energy but happens so smoothly as to hardly notice till it's there. And I loved Night After Night. I'll have to listen to the original debuts from the run once more (I've only half-listened to Soil so far) but I think Night After Night might be my fave and I feel like this one could grow to be an incredibly high-energy and dynamic vehicle in the days to come. So cool that this is the first of what will likely and hopefully be many epic performances of this song