When these New Orleans funksters take the stage they might play just about anything, and regardless of what they choose your body and soul are going to move. Galactic returned to Crystal Bay Casino on Sunday night, transforming the Crown Room into a bouncing, shouting house party.
From the first brassy licks of “Sugar Doosie” off 2015’s “Into The Deep,” CBC fans were treated to bite after explosive bite of a tasty funk muffaletta. Each song, like the classic NOLA sandwich, was a wonderfully married selection of varying rhythms and flavors.The founding duo of drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio on the low end are as tight a foundational pair as you’ll find. Moore excels at a number of styles and provides punch and power over Mercurio’s smooth grooves. Together, they form the crunchy outside and soft inside that coddle the horns of Ben Ellman and Shamarr Allen, Rich Vogel’s keys, and the guitars from Jeff Raines that await inside. Pulling all these big flavors together requires finesse, and Erica Falls’ vocals were the perfect blend of sweet and spicy.
Falls, whose lipstick and microphone glittered in gold, displayed beautiful dynamic range throughout the 10 or so songs in which she shared the stage with the boys. Her performance of the uptempo bump and grinder “Dolly Diva” not only featured her as lead vocalist, but the staccato chorus served the dual purpose of acting as another instrument in the composition, wedging in between the madness perfectly. Falls further impressed in the evening’s closer, displaying perfectly pitched harmonics mixed with some soundboard echo enhancement that blew the crowd away.
There were tasty treats aplenty from all of the players, and more than enough to fill your belly. Ben Ellman’s saxophone and Shamarr Allen’s pocket trumpet were often foils playing off one another, while Raines mixed guitar styles from riffy funk to Southern rock, as Vogel’s solo spots on keyboards were understated and straightforward rather than effect-heavy, funkified tones.
Brooklyn’s High and Mighty Brass Band took a turn onstage, as well, joining to close the main set with a brass blowout. Stage right was horn heavy with an additional three trombones and a trumpet from the New York brass ensemble. Each was featured with solos alongside Allen, who joined Galactic a year-and-a-half ago, and Ellman, before moving things to a jam-packed Red Room for their own throw down before a crowd that didn’t seem to care that Monday morning was only a few hours away.
If you didn’t get your fill Sunday, you can catch Galactic in San Francisco at The Warfield on March 31, and then back in the Bay Area at Berkeley’s Greek Theater on Sept 15. What a treat it always is to see these cats at intimate Crystal Bay.
– Michael Smyth