Robert Randolph brings the funk to Lansdowne Street

A review of Robert Randolph & The Family Band at the House of Blues on February 18, 2011

, Contributing Writer

There are jam bands and then there are bands that jam. Distinctions aside, the funk, soul and blues combination that Robert Randolph & The Family Band puts forth is one-of-a-kind. The genre itself takes on many forms of fusion, but this particular brand of funk is nothing but a good time. Upbeat, positive and electric tunes were the main attraction and attention to structure was not a concern when Randolph and company rocked Boston’s House of Blues on Friday.

Randloph, who later reminisced about the band’s Bill’s Bar gig on Lansdowne Street ten year ago, kicked the show off “Traveling Shoes” off the band’s latest release, 2010’s We Walk this Road. Slowing it down just a tad, “Going in the Right Direction” came second before the band really hit their groove with “If I Had My Way”, which sampled some of The Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” towards the end. Original songs gave way to covers like The Rolling Stones’ “Shake Your Hips”, during which the playful Randolph invited all women to join him on stage. The 30-40 women who took his offer danced and had a great time. As the women were ushered off the stage at the end, Randolph wasted no time and continued to play as his bandmates returned to the stage.

With the band back in tow, Randolph declared he was “taking us back to 1982” and promptly launched into Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The familiar opening drums and bass led to a chorus of cheers from the crowd, but the accompanying lyrics never came and the band just played off the opening beat. Randlop’s fun interaction with the crowd continued as one fan was invited onstage to play guitar for the song’s duration in an almost sing-songy duel with Randolph. Fan favorite “I Need More Love” sampled more of the King of Pop with “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” taking over in the middle before ending with the original’s loud rock chorus. Randloph’s signature take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” also kept the crowd moving.

Dubbed the “Family Band” for sister Lenesha’s contributions as backup vocalist and brother Marcus on drums, the band is rounded out by bassist Danyel “Daddio” Morgan and Hammond organist Jason Crosby. The show was a mix of their interpretations of classic jams with tradition thrown out the window as they performed in the “Sacred Steel,” a genre in the African-American gospel tradition. Every tune was some form of funky rhythm brimming with positivity. Long solos broke up the original songs with more lyrical offerings, and even those with established lyrics found extensions with bass riffs, pedal steel guitar solos, and electric guitar improvisations. The energy was high though Randolph remained mostly stainery with occasional bouts of frenetic dancing in his seat.

Randolph delivered one of his most rousing solos during “Walk Don’t Walk”, which brought the main set to a close. The band quickly returned for a encore that began with “It Don’t Matter” and seamless segued into “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with That”. Randolph apologetically announced the band’s pleasure in “making it up as we go along” as the closing jam session extended into several minutes with a lingering tribute to Sly & the Family Stone’s “Thank You”.

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