Galactic (w/ Soul Rebels Brass Band)
February 23, 2012
Galactic! Little else needs to be said to get the adrenaline going from fans of improvisational music with a flair for funk.
As part of this year’s Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations, Galactic fans had an extra reason to get into party mode — on Fat Tuesday, February 21, Galactic released their seventh studio album, Carnivale Electricos, a musical celebration of the sounds you would hear coming from all over the pre-lent day of catharsis. From funk to Hip-Hop, R&B and soul, Galacticâ€™s new album is a daring take on their ever exploring musical journey.
Just two days after the release, Galactic, along with their New Orleans friends, theÂ Soul Rebels Brass Band, took off on a tour promoting their most recent effort.
The first stop was this night,Â an unseasonably balmy one at Washington, DCâ€™s 9:30 Club and as has been standard for Galactic as of late, the Soul Rebels were not the only guests that Galactic brought with them, as recent Grammy winning trombonist, Corey Henry of the Rebirth Brass Band, and Living Colour vocalist / solo artist Corey Glover, joined the funk-jam stalwarts for what would be a marvelous kick off to the Carnivale Electricos tour.
The stage was similarly decorated to the way in which it was for the â€œYa-Ka-Mayâ€ tour, Robert Mercurioâ€™s bass amp and Rich Vogelâ€™s Hammond B-3 organ wrapped in a ring of plastic that was backlit by a variety of colors. The marked difference was the two sizable glowing carnival masks that flanked flanking a large silver “G.” Furthering the new stage Â decorum was Stanton Mooreâ€™s bass drum head that was painted with a character from their new album cover, all setting the scene for the two hour blend of new and classic Galactic, stuff that has kept them relevant for nearly two decades.
Though all of Galactic’s members have called the Crescent City of New Orleans their home for many moons, returning to DC is a pre-NOLA homecoming for two of Galacticâ€™s founding members: bassist Robert Mercurio and guitarist Jeff Raines. Rightfully, the pair opened the set with the first bars of 2010’s “Cinearamascope” (Ya-Ka-May). From there, the band pounded out another haunting instrumental, “Balkan Wedding.” Both songs were brightly played and tight, with drummer extraordinaire Stanton Moore and Mercurio working as tight as any rhythm section ever could.
Having always split time between instrumentals and vocal numbers, when singer Theryl â€œHouse Manâ€ DeClouet left the band in 2004, the band used it as an opportunity to work with a variety of talent including Boots Riley, Chali 2na, Irma Thomas and Cyril Neville, but since last year, it seems that they have settled on Corey Glover who has chaired the vocal seat. It works perfectly. Glover brings a powerful voice and a wealth of confidence that can only come from a man who has a world of front man experience similar to his. He demonstrated this perfectly when brought on stage for his first foray of the night with Â a couple of songs from the new album.
The Carnivale Electricos album has an overall electronic sound to it — with looped drum parts and effect laden vocals. On the record, the band keeps the songs very cohesive and dynamic while exploring modern sounds and techniques. In contrast, when played live, the tunes take on a distinctly organic feel and Glover has quickly learned how to interpret the vocals while putting his own stamp of phrasing on them.
Tearing into “Hey Na Na” with Glover again in tow, the crowd responded en masse to the songâ€™s main chant at the beseeching of the guy that was formerly best known for his braided days in Body Glove suits, slaying worldwide audiences and stomping on any prejudice that anyone had about African Americans and hard rock.
Of course, all of this fails to mention the vocal abilities of a man that is better known for his brass abilities, the aforementioned Corey Henry who is a fantastic hip-hop vocalist and spent time trading licks with Glover over tunes such as the funk R&B infused “Out in the Street” that had the 9:30 Club boiling.
Sax and harmonica man, Ben Ellman, is also very comfortable working with Henry and after a couple years of playing together the two have grown into a place where they can anticipate each other. This makes for great live moments, and it was this call and response jamming intermingled with conjoint play and trading of solos that proved made Â “Keep Steppin'” a memorable serving of the number.
One of two clear highlight moments came halfway through the set when the entire Soul Rebels Brass Band joined Galactic for a pair of songs. This filled the stage with 14 musicians, including: 3 trombones, 2 tenor saxes, 2 trumpets, 3 percussionists, keys, guitar, bass and tuba. In combination, it made for one giant load of power.
As the bands whipped through extended solos on Ya-Ka-Mayâ€™s “Boe Money,” many in the Washington DC crowd could not believe what they were seeing and hearing, the visual experience nearly as heightening as the sonic one, and were left buzzing long after the Soul Rebels left the stage.
After taking a short break, the band returned to the stage for an encored “Ash Wednesday Sunrise”(Carnivale Electricos), a quiet instrumental that was reflective and telling of the startling peace found in New Orleans on Wednesday morning after Mardi Gras day.
To cap it all off, Corey Glover returned to the stage and exclaimed â€œand during the few moments that we have left, I want to talk right down to earth, in a language that everybody can understandâ€ before launching into the unmistakable Vernon Reid (played by JeffÂ Raines) opening to Living Colour’s timeless and socially riveting hit, “Cult of Personality,” causing a near riot on the floor.
Galactic delivered and delivered big. A huge night of music and fun which left the 9:30 Club gasping for its collective breath. NPR was on hand to record the night and now has it available for streaming.
Galactic is an honest band. They enjoy playing together and exploring many of the styles of New Orleans music, all the while giving respect to those who came before, and the styles that are coming now. Remarkably, this was the first night of the tour and many still have the opportunity to see how it unfolds further down the road.
Cineramascope, Balkan Wedding, Hey Na Na*, Out in the Street*, I Don’t Know But It Sure Is Funky*, Ha Di Ka*, Bongo Joe, Keep Steppin’, Total Destruction To Your Mind*,Never Called You Crazy*, Karate, Boe Money, Heart of Steel*, Carnival Time*, Goin’ Down*, You Don’t Know*
Encore: Â Ash Wednesday Sunrise, Cult of Personality*
* with Corey Glover
Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Bob Adamek…