RECAP :: Oteil and Friends on January 16, 2018 at Brooklyn Bowl New York

Posted on Thursday January 18th in

The word is “beatific” — blissfully happy — and there may be no better way to describe Oteil Burbridge when he’s deep in a state of music making.

The resume speaks for itself. The Allman Brothers Band. Aquarium Rescue Unit. Zac Brown Band. Vida Blue. Gov’t Mule. Victor Wooten. Tedeschi Trucks Band. BK3. His own Oteil & The Peacemakers. And, of course, his current assignment in Dead & Company. What was fascinating about Tuesday’s splendid Brooklyn Bowl show was that it had a little of everything that makes Oteil, Oteil: a widely acknowledged legend of the bass guitar but as a musician and person, warm, giving, down-to-earth, and deeply musical without any one adjective or descriptor to pin him down.

Joining him was a band of aces — guitarists Scott Metzger and John Kadlecik, keyboardist Melvin Seals, percussionist Weedie Braimah, drummer Jay Lane, vocalist Alfreda Gerald — and the focus was good, groovy jams, and a catholic embrace of Oteil’s full range of styles, influences, and associations. There were two sets, some grabs from Oteil’s recent solo album “Water in the Desert,” and songs from the Grateful Dead, Allmans, the Jerry Garcia Band catalog, the Staples Singers, The Isley Brothers, CCR-by-way-of-Tina Turner, even a John Kadlecik original, most of them shot through with funk, soul, R&B, boogie, good vibes. They had big smiles, playing away in an unhurried atmosphere that got cooking quickly but didn’t rush to get there.

Everyone had multiple chances to shine. The smoldering soul of Oteil’s own “Water in the Desert” went from barroom to church as soon as Seals leaned hard into a gospel-y organ solo; he’d do it many other times throughout the night. Metzger — hot off a scorching weekend with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead — tried on all kinds of textures, from metallic shredfest to greasy boogie, slaying his standout moments in “Deep Elum Blues,” “It Hurts Me Too” and “Tangled Up In Blue.” Kadlecik was a typical marvel, leading the team through “Reuben & Cerise,” his own boogie-ing “What’s Become of Mary” and “Scarlet Begonias.” The drum corps of Lane and Brahmah rose to the challenge of quickly shifting styles, locking in with the mighty Burbridge as the band to rock up and simmer down as needed. And Gerald — whoa! The longtime Burbridge pal is a powerhouse vocalist, lighting up the room especially with Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” the Staples’ “I’ll Take You There,” and a pair of showcases in the Aretha-style airing of “The Weight” and the evening’s sparked-up encore, “Proud Mary.” They all came together for a magnificent “Eyes of the World” excursion to start the second set — swirling, bouncing, starry-eyed, deeply grooving, with standout moments for every member of the ensemble over a luxurious 20 minutes.

It was unquestionably Oteil’s band, but the grinning wizard was just as happy to hang back, content in knowing he could take a ride with a few musical pals and not even have to turn on a GPS, let alone drive the whole time. Even when he claimed heartfelt lead vocal turns — “If I Had the World to Give” in the first frame, “So Many Roads” in the second — none of this looked like work.

Set 1: Water in the Desert, Deep Ellum Blues, Leave My Blues at Home, Reuben & Cerise, If I Had the World to Give, What’s Become of Mary, It Hurts Me Too, Piece of My Heart

Set 2: Eyes of the World > drums > bass > Eyes of the World > It’s Your Thing, Scarlet Begonias > Sugaree > I’ll Take You There, Tangled Up in Blue, So Many Roads, The Weight, Run for the Roses

Encore: Proud Mary
Words by Chad Berndtson

Photos Courtesy of Lou Montesano :: Instagram: @stillrockphotos

Photos Courtesy of Matt Heasley :: Instagram: @mattheasleyphotography


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