Soulive Presents the Beatles
Massry Center for the Arts
The College of Saint Rose
By Pete Mason
Photos by Andy Hill
Soulive, the instrumental jazz trio that formed 12 years ago took the stage on a chilly Sunday night in Albany at the Picotte Recital Hall in the Massry Center for the Arts, a new room with perfect acoustics and seating for only 400. A unique journey into the catalog of The Beatles was met with amazing sound for every one of the filled seats in this acoustically perfect room. The vibrations from the music could be felt in your clothes and your body, providing a tactile sensation rarely experienced at a concert – sitting down for nearly the entire show helped this feeling to accentuate the music’s intensity as well highlight every minute note that Alan Evans, Eric Krasno and Neal Evans played over 90 minutes.
From their debut album Get Down! (1999), Soulive has been a mainstay at festivals from Bonnaroo to Jazz Fest, Mountain Jam to Wakarusa and their own inaugural festival this past August, The Royal Family Affair in Stratton, Vermont. Jazz and funk are their fortes but the depth of their musical skill and talent are not easily bottled up in one genre. While the band is entirely instrumental, the trio sound like a sextet at times, bringing together so many sounds, you can willingly take a short break from seeing live music for a few days to soak it all in. Coming off the release of Rubber Soulive (Royal Family Records, 2010), Soulive has performed their jazzy versions of Beatles songs to enthusiastic crowds, although Alan Evans was quick to mention that the crowds vary from night to night, with the show on the 29th being completely different – a costumed crowd packing Higher Ground in Burlington is the polar opposite to a unique performance space where all 400 remained seated throughout much of the show. “We’ve always been big Beatles fans,” said Krasno. “We thought about doing all of Rubber Soul,” Krasno said, “but that band has so many great tunes. We picked the ones that lent themselves well to our sound and others where we could add the Soulive flavor.”
The band took the stage shortly after 8 p.m. with Baby You Can Drive My Car, featuring Neal Evans on keys as he covered the beat and the bass of the original all while laying down fresh funk for the instantly recognizable classic. In My Life was, in a word – beautiful. The organ portion was nailed while the lyrics poured from Krasno’s Ibanez AS200 guitar with which he held THE note perfectly, akin to the steel pedal guitar notes from Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny. Come Together started off dark and jazzy, with Krasno squinting into the light as the intensity of the song was seen in his expression.
Something was heavy and loud and Krasno segued neatly into Eleanor Rigby, a highly complicated song to convert into jazz with excellent improvisation in the middle by all. A second segue into I Want You (She’s So Heavy). Neal took a solo to slow things down while Alan and Eric stared motionless as the song grew and moved into darker territory. A deep jam evolved before Alan hit the drums intensely to return the trio into She’s So Heavy. Get Back was originally covered by Krasno when he recorded this on his acoustic album Reminisce. Neal used funky keys to start the rhythm and groove as Alan moved in with his drums, building up calmly before the full weight of the organ drove the song into full gear. Krasno’s Clapton-esque solos lead into full on bluesy rockers in these Beatles songs.
The band left the stage following the Rubber Soulive portion of the evening and headed back out a few moments later to entertain the crowd with a couple originals. Steppin, one of the trio’s first songs woke the audience up from the mesmerization of the Beatles songs, El Ron brought funky grooves and a need to free the beast of dance from the within the crowd. An enthusiastic contingent of the crowd urged those seated to get up and dance before the final song of the night. Within 30 seconds of Tuesday Night Squad starting, most of the 400 were on their feet. The groove plateaued and slowed down before kicking in again and gave rise to cheers from all.
Soulive has been around only 12 years, but with Royal Family Records behind them and a great deal of side projects, the trio is continuing to add to the musical landscape it helped pave in the past decade both inside and around the jamband scene.
Set: Baby You Can Drive My Car, Revolution, In My Life, Come Together, Something-> Eleanor Rigby-> I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Get Back (50 minutes)
Encore: Steppin’, El Ron, Tuesday Night Squad (25 minutes)