It may have been a quiet Sunday night elsewhere around Lake Tahoe on March 24, but Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room was knee-deep in New Orleans funk and jazz as ecstatic music-lovers came out in force to experience Galactic.
Taking the stage to cheers and roars, Jeff Raines (guitar), Stanton Moore (drums), Robert Mercurio (bass), and Richard Vogel (keys) began to crank out upbeat, soulful grooves. A moment later, vocalist Erica Falls stepped onstage, joined by Ben Ellman (saxophone) and Shamarr Allen (pocket trumpet).
Galactic proceeded to put on a tour-de-force performance, entrancing the exuberant crowd for two hours with a vast array of sounds, styles and moods. High-octane funk and soul overlaid with a seemingly endless series of searing brass solos, rhythmic and punchy guitar lines, and thumping, gamboling bass beats filled the air as gals and guys of all ages (or at least from 21 to some 70-somethings) moved, gyrated or just bobbed their heads.
The band rolled out a variety of material, including a number of tracks from “Already Ready Already,” Galactic’s 10th studio album, released in early 2019. A bevy of opening up-tempo, sassily funky tunes gave way to slower, sexier, soulful jams for the middle of the group’s set.
South Shore musician Todd Christensen made the trip to see Galactic with a friend, and stood near the middle of the Crown Room, moving in time to the music.
“It’s definitely super jazzy,” he said.
The jam-minded act established a nice stylistic balance throughout the show, with Falls periodically joining and leaving the stage in between numbers featuring or omitting vocals. The seemingly seamless ebb and flow of escapist instrumental tracks — in turn giving way to songs featuring Falls’ wildly talented and passionate vocals –made for an almost dream-like concert experience, with the listener never quite sure of what would come next. Ellman also added some pleasant surprises, occasionally abandoning his saxophone for a hot harmonica, injecting a vampy, over-driven blues tone at times.
Galactic wrapped up with a crescendo of an encore, if you could even call it that. Leaving the stage briefly to roaring applause and catcalls, the band soon returned for a final run of three (or four?) songs, which greatly exceeded the expectations of a normal finale. Indeed, another song or two and their “encore” might have been half a set.
This, of course, is right in line with what fans of the band have rightfully come to expect. Galactic delivers, in droves.
— Josh Sweigert