The main room of the Paradise rock club is tucked away behind a winding tunnel of dark corridors off of Commonwealth Ave in Boston. At first glance the room seems relatively small, with the stage protruding out into the middle of the floor. By 10:30 p.m. this past Saturday the room was charged with expectation as the sold out crowd of teenyboppers, hippies, frat boys, businessmen and grandfathers eagerly awaited the arrival of Soulive.
Dressed in a dark suit and his signature brim-button golf cap, Eric Krasno emerged from backstage followed by Neal Evans and his brother Alan, both dressed in similar attire. The trio took their seats and within 30 seconds were jamming away, taking the crowd with them. The show would continue with this intensity through to the encore at almost 1:30 a.m.—the absolute latest that a band is allowed to play at the Paradise.
To see the band live is truly a privilege. The group’s talents are nothing short of amazing individually and as a whole. Organ player Neal Evans, who sat at the Hammond B-3, complete with revolving speaker, would routinely take solos on the upper register keys while holding down a completely independent bass line with his left hand. He has perfected the art of playing both parts simultaneously to the point that there is no bassist in the group and no need for one.
Guitarist Eric Krasno was no less impressive. Moving fluidly between jazz chord voicings, Hendrix-like blues riffs and soulful lead lines, Krasno is a master of his instrument in all capacities. He spent the night leaning against a bar stool, often mimicking his guitar lines with moaning facial expressions.
However impressive Neal Evans and Eric Krasno were, it was all held together by the funk, jazz and hip hop-driven beats of drummer Alan Evans. With a jazz-style grip on his sticks, he played with the intensity of a metal drummer, but with the touch of an old-school great. His energy was such that after the first song he shed his suit jacket because of the sweat he had worked up. In between songs, as he wiped his sticks down, he asked the crowd, “You all ready to get down?!” The crowd responded each time with roaring approval.
The groove they held as a group was so stable and the diverse crowd was so engaged that the whole room seemed to move as one massive dancing unit. This talent has drawn impressive fans such as Dave Matthews, with whom Soulive has shared both the stage and the studio. Other notable artists who have joined Soulive at various points are jazz guitarist John Scofield and saxophonist Sam Kininger. Kininger is actually an active member of the group despite their decision to tour as a trio.
As with all the shows in the current tour, Soulive recorded Saturday’s concert, with the expectation of releasing an upcoming live album. Soulive has released four albums since their start in 1999: Get Down!, Turn It Out, Doin’ Somethin and 2002’s Next. The latter two have been released by the prestigious jazz label Blue Note Records. Despite being a member of the Blue Note community, Soulive isn’t jazz, or at least not solely jazz. The music is a unique blend of styles rooted in jazz, hip-hop, funk, R&B and soul.
Yet, the most important element of the music wasn’t the styles, but the souls behind them. They poured every ounce of energy into their music from start to finish. Maintaining such intensity night after night, it is wonderfully fitting that they are called Soulive.