Karl Denson put his Tiny Universe on display for Valentine’s Day at Crystal Bay, and the crowd was swept away.
The funk group took the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room stage Saturday night, and threw down a lively performance that was a testament to the band’s new direction beginning in 2014.
“The band kind of hit its stride last year,” Denson said in January. “We got a new drummer (Max MacVeety), I feel like he fits really well, kind of bringing him up to speed.”
With the help of MacVeety and unofficial member Roosevelt Collier on lap steel guitar, KDTU cranked up its signature funky groove with a distinctly new element: hard-nosed, high-energy rock.
“It’s still got the funky backbone, but it’s definitely rocking,” longtime Denson fan Ryan Cassidy said after the show. “The dynamics are definitely louder than they ever have been. The lineup has shifted all through the years, and I think this is a really interesting one.”
Taking the stage in matching black suits, the band thrilled the audience with a power-driven version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Power of Soul.” Alongside ferocious renditions of other covers like “Galactic” by War and the White Stripes’ “7 Nation Army,” KDTU cut loose with a variety of original music, including from its most recent album, released in 2014.
“The album’s called ‘New Ammo,’ and it is, it’s like that,” Cassidy said. “Its firecracker, shotgun blasts. The guitar player (D.L. Williams) was playing like firecrackers.”
Collier’s phenomenal sacred steel skills added an entirely new dimension to the sound, one so distinctive that the crowd immediately took notice.
“Roosevelt’s slide would come in and the whole place would start dancing differently,” Cassidy said “I’ve never seen anything like it at a Karl D. show. They would be rocking along, and everyone was bopping and kind of banging around; then Roosevelt would come in, and everyone would just start to sway.”
The KDTU fan was thrilled with the addition of the lap steel player to the band’s lineup.
“It really sewed it all together, I thought,” Cassidy said.
All in all, there was plenty to enjoy for the crowd in the increasingly packed house; synchronized dancing, Denson’s nonstop energy and stage presence, even a song dedicated to the ladies in honor of the holiday. KDTU’s musical variety was front and center, with Denson pouring out a mind-bending cascade of soulful notes on both saxophone and flute, and trumpet player Chris Littlefield jumping onto a spare keyboard from time to time.
As the band left the stage shortly after midnight, ecstatic fans hung around, basking in the afterglow of their latest trip to Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.
“He’s always pulling out this bag of tricks,” Cassidy said with a grin. “He always surprises you.”