Saturday was a busy and fun day – saw the Blues for Smoke exhibit at the Whitney, met rtb, violaleeblue, her friend R, and mollyT for drinks at Gallow Green, and then we headed off (without mollyT) to Irving Plaza. A night of blues/rock was the perfect complement to the Whitney exhibit.
Outside the tour bus violaleeblue called her brother-in-law, who is the bassist for JJ Grey. Todd Smallie came out and greeted us all warmly and we got to hang out in the tour bus for a bit and meet some of the other band members and the road crew. One guy took a couple of slugs from a bottle of Makers Mark. Rock and roll, baby!
Inside we were given VIP tags and headed upstairs. There was a counter against the railing and seats and we were one of the first people up there so we sat right above the stage.
The stage was decorated with lots of lamps and I was afraid that some of the musicians were going to bang into them.
Eric Krasno (Soulive) opened the night with Alecia Chakour (vocals), Alex Chakour (guitar), Eric Kalb (drums), Ron Johnson (bass), and Pete Levin (keys and organ). Krasno sang and played lead guitar. The drums were over to the side and the Johnson was hidden behind the line array and I was hoping that Todd wasn’t going to be standing in the same place. Krasno plays wailing blues/rock and several times when the drums came in I thought they were going to do “Move Over,” especially since Alecia sounded like a poor woman’s Janis Joplin. Turns out they have a lot of songs that start out that way but when they finished the night with “Move Over” I knew it was going to be that song for sure.
The band made me want to sing again – right away – not only because of Alecia but because of Krasno’s singing and his guitar’s singing.
The last time I saw JJ Grey and Mofro a fight broke out right next to me in the crowd. This time I could watch from upstairs as people got drunk and there were some almost-fights. Unfortunately Todd was behind the array but every so often he peeked out.
Along with JJ Grey on guitar, harmonica, vocals, and organ and Todd on bass were Art Edmaiston on saxophone, Dennis Marion on trumpet, Anthony Cole on drums, Andrew Trube on guitar and pedal steel, and Anthony Farrell on keys and organ. Grey is charismatic and, even if the audience didn’t know all the words to his songs, he had everyone eating out of his hand. New songs like the title track from The River were as well received as “Georgia Warhorse,” “Orange Blossoms,” and “Blackwater.” Each band member was given an opportunity to shine and Krasno joined them for the encore. This is a tight fun band and this was one of my most favorite concert experiences. There was blues and funk and Southern and love and going to hell and being saved in church all at once.
By Carene Lydia Lopez