Lettuce funks up Tahoe atain

Nigel Hall and Lettuce deliver funk to the Crystal Bay Casino. Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo
Nigel Hall and Lettuce deliver funk to the Crystal Bay Casino.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

Thursday night’s Lettuce show in November 2016 at the Crystal Bay Casino felt like bombing down a big, glowing mountain of funk and carving through nothing but the tastiest, freshest grooves on the planet.

Lettuce has proven itself to be one of the most hard-charging, lights-out incredible bands in the industry, bringing it to the house night-after-night with its tight musicianship and stellar chemistry. This is coupled with an innovative mindset crafting works of sonic art that splatter 1970s funk, soul, hip-hop and electronic flurries together in psychedelic harmony like a Pollock masterpiece.

To see Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff (guitar), Neal Evans (keyboards, Hammond B-3 Organ, piano), Adam Deitch (drums), Erick “Jesus” Coomes (bass), Ryan Zoidis (saxophone),  Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet) and Nigel Hall (vocals) in action is to witness  generational luminaries operate at the zenith of their abilities.

The funk titans first played at the Crystal Bay Casino a year ago and the group’s second time along the shores of Lake Tahoe absolutely blew open the roof of the sold-out Crown Room. Last year, the band was still toying with songs in concert to take to the studio. Twelve months later, it was back to showcase the expansive “Crush” for the local population.

It is one dirty record that becomes absolutely filthy when Lettuce can flex its muscles in front of a crowd and pump the songs with palpable electricity. “The Force” blasted the crowd with a triumphant groove and tasty solos from Zoidis and Smirnoff. Hall’s whiskey-neat pipes “Sounds Like a Party to Me” turned the casino into a late-night, drunken house party and he straight killed it with both his stunning musical chops and effervescent stage presence, cementing his role as the night’s party sergeant.

If anyone took command of the crowd when Hall was off stage, it was the bubbly Coomes. “Jesus” bounced around like a groovy Buddha on “Soul Train” and he was compelled to throw up his hands anytime Deitch, Zoidis, Bloom, Evans and “Shmeeans” dropped a tasty lick or the crowd reached a fever pitch, which happened a lot, really.

The band’s intoxicating cool on “Sam Huff’s Flying Ragin’ Machine” erupted into a delirious finale that was powered by the mighty rata-tat-tat’s of Zoidis and Bloom surging with Smirnoff’s and Evans’ greasy rhythm. The racing intensity of “Lettasanity” was capped by a furious drum solo by Deitch that brought the house down, easily one of the loudest reactions the Crown Room has ever experienced. But you gotta acknowledge greatness when you see it and Lettuce is one of the best to grace its stage.

It is just so impressive to see a band cruise through groove after groove at full-throttle without sacrificing musicianship for intensity. The band ripped through a searing one-two combo of Curtis Mayfield covers to close the set, “We’re a Winner” into “Move On Up.” The band achieved lift-off on the latter on the back of a white-hot solo from Smirnoff that had everyone in the band shouting his praises, especially Hall and Evans, who were glowing together as they double-teamed some keyboard action. But then the band completely dropped out and Hall took the spotlight, literally, and drizzled honeyed vocals over the crowd as a one-man gospel machine, which the rest of the members celebrated with cheers as they re-launched the funk ship back into space.

Point-blank, you should never miss some fresh Lettuce because it’s one of the most satisfying concerts you’ll ever see.

Editor’s note: To see images of the full set, click HERE

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