Monday, August 5, 2013

Mickey Hart's Superorganism at the Showbox in Seattle

Mickey Hart Band still surprises and delights, in fact, the experience keeps getting better and better. His "Superorganism" tour pulsed and throbbed at the Showbox in downtown Seattle on Saturday night, with the highest quality music and musicianship, while--get this--a three-dimensional real-time electronic image of Mickey's brain rotated on the backdrop. I kid you not! Whether the electrode cap Mickey donned was actually connected to the computer or not, I wasn't sure, and at some point I didn't care one way or another--the music was so moving, so brilliant.

As if that weren't enough, the new bassist, Reed Mathis, absolutely owned the lower register like no one I've seen, except for maybe Phil Lesh or Robyn Sylvester. Reed plays that nice old P-bass full-throttle, as if he were a lead guitar player on a Strat, picking intricately, or outright whaling, whatever the music required, and more. His playing drew me in, melodic and modulating, and then POW! Power. Reed's band, Tea Leaf Trio, opened the show with a half-hour set that elevated the experience and set the stage for the transformation to come. 

Guitarist Gawain Matthews reminded me a lot of Jon Herington, who plays with Steely Dan--young, wiry, with a delicate touch and rich warm tone, like a younger, spryer Walter Becker. Sound images of David Gilmour at times--you know how David plays: spartan, with incredible feeling, but just the right note at the right time. 

I have to also call out the superb singer, Crystal Monee Hall. One of those deep, rich, yet melodic voices you very rarely come across--she was the perfect complement, her driving voice surfing the polyrhythmic waves.

A long-time fan, I enjoyed every minute of the show. The energetic though mellow crowd danced and grooved, and yet seemed to truly listen. Mickey's love for the music and his humor and humanity shine through in everything he does. I appreciated Mickey's message to the audience at the end, when we were all glowing and spent: "Take this vibe and do good with it."

The Mickey Hart Band consists of Grammy-winning percussionist and longtime band mate Sikiru Adepoju, super-fantastic singer Crystal Monee Hall, singer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Bagale, drummer Greg Schutte, guitarist Gawain Matthews, bassist Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green), and keyboardist/sound designer Jonah Sharp.

In celebration of Mickey's 70th birthday in September, many of the upcoming SUPERORGANISM tour dates will feature guest musicians and friends of Mickey's. Special guests the Tea Leaf Trio (Trevor Garrod, Reed Mathis, and Cochrane McMillan, of Tea Leaf Green) will open the majority of the dates. Mathis will perform double duty each night playing with both the Tea Leaf Trio and the Mickey Hart Band.

Monday, February 25, 2013

WOW! WOW! Echoes Channels Pink Floyd Live

 The next Echoes show: May 21

Donny Evo doing "Wish You Were Here" 

Mysterious northern lights green and purple on the backdrop, instruments glinting, gem lights glowing like molten eyes, the hum of amplifiers, ready, waiting, and the band takes the stage to wild cheering and clapping...that haunting, unmistakable opening note... From Shine On You Crazy Diamond through The Wall, Breathe, Hey You, Cigar, Time, and others, to the last note of the fantastic encore, we were wowed and completely mesmerized by Echoes.

I've heard people say "all Pink Floyd cover bands are good." That comment is understandable: to play Floyd's complex compositions takes mastery of musicianship, total belief, and loads of time and dedication. This Pink Floyd cover band is great, and I was keen to understand what sets them apart.

Donny Evo's dedication to the intent and soul of Pink Floyd music is apparent--Donny breathes the music, and throughout the show he would tweak a pedal, adjust the controls, and signal the sound board, to get the feeling just right. His guitar playing itself shows years of experience and craftsmanship, but it's more than that, too. There's a powerful intent--call it Soul--that manifests in the haunting tones Donny gets out of each guitar he plays. The lead singer, Nick Denke, who also plays excellent guitar, drives the songs through sheer vocal prowess and charisma. I say he's a better singer than anyone in Pink Floyd ever was! Incredible timbre, tone, and passion. His innate sense of showmanship is just that: intrinsic to the very best possible live performance of the music itself; Nick leaves it all on the stage. It's a beautiful thing.

The marvelous Nick Denke

And back to my agreement with Charles Mingus' "Rotary Perception" theory (Google it), Nick absolutely nails the beat, driving, punching, leaping the line at just the right moment. Nick was the driving force holding down the beat, with help from the steady, bopping Gary Sparling on bass, who quietly, and With Authority, bopping on the balls of his feet, kept time.

Major love to the keyboard players, too. I was impressed by Marino Corriea's particularly tasty-sounding Hammond organ/Marshall amp pairing, filling the room with warmth. Then crisp, silvery highlights sparkled from the other set of keyboards, again demonstrating these seasoned players' attention to quality and detail. Wow. Only missing was Kellee Bradley, their fine vocalist, who has sung with national artists such as Messina and Mellencamp, among many others. Hopefully she will be back on May 21.

It was all over too soon. I could have listened to that bad-ass "Pigs on the Wing" from "Animals" for another hour or two!

Echoes is playing May 21 at Amante's in Issaquah. Make your dinner reservations now. 425-313-9600.

Support live music: Amante's Issaquah features live cover bands every Tuesday night 7:30-9:30. Reservations recommended.