ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FAMILY BAND
Are Amped Up at the bergenPAC
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

"Joy, freedom and energy" are terms that are often used when Robert Randolph speaks about their latest album Lickety Split (2013), words that also aptly describe a Robert Randolph & The Family Band concert. The group is still on tour in support of their most recent release which led them back to the bergenPAC on December 20, 2014.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band Are Amped Up at the bergenPAC
The incomparable Robert Randolph returned to the bergenPAC stage in 2014.

Robert Randolph (RR) started playing the pedal steel in the church. As a young man he listened mostly to spiritual music. Then Robert heard Stevie Ray Vaughan and was committed to approach his instrument the way SRV had approached his guitar. Randolph found some like minded family members and musicians to share his vision. Today, they are crafting tunes that blend blues, funk, gospel, rock and soul. RR is well respected in the improvisational/jam music scene so guests often play with the band. On this particular Saturday night, guitar great Eric Krasno (Soulive & Lettuce) along with trombonist Big Sam performed with Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

Without much fanfare RR took the stage starting with a feisty instrumental flowing into an animated "Amped Up" that was pumped up with spirited pedal steel from Robert and the soulful "Little Sister Lenesha" assisting with vocals. They jammed a bit before going down to "New Orleans" as Big Sam on trombone enhanced the feel of the Big Easy. This song also showcased Lenesha's powerful singing.

"Wonderful to be here in Jersey," declared Robert who is from the Garden State. They moved into a funky, jubilant jam proclaiming the refrain "Joy". Next they preached the gospel of Jimi Hendrix with their own vibrant version of "Purple Haze". Continuing with innovative covers they flew into "The Sky Is Crying" (Elmore James). Danyel handled lead vocals in addition to adding bold, bluesy base lines to support soaring guitar parts.

Randolph mentioned that his Aunt and the church were big influences on his music. He invited his Aunt to lead the band in a spiritual song. As she stepped up she asked the audience with authority to stand up and clap, which got the crowd moving. Keeping the good vibes going RR played a winsome "Brand New Wayo" from Lickety Split that expanded into short succulent solos from the group.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band Are Amped Up at the bergenPAC
The Family Band welcomed special guests Big Sam and Eric Krasno to the family.

Robert Randolph & The Family Band are well known for energized shows and one of the most engaging parts is when RR invites ladies from the audience on stage to "Shake Your Hips". Laura from SoundPress.net ventured up. It was a fun, unique perspective to be only a few feet away from the musicians.

The band put their own special voodoo on Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" switching some of the lyrics to suit the New Jersey fans. The tune also featured fine solos from the band. Some members of the opening act joined RR for the encore that included a lively "Lickety Split" and a creative cover of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" (Bobby McFerrin) that ended the night on a happy note. Robert Randolph & The Family Band once again lived up to the message of their latest album Lickety Split with a concert that was joyful, free and full of energy!

Opening for RR was New Jersey's Stolen Rhodes. This four piece band from Monmouth County presented an up-tempo set of songs. Their first tune "Peacemaker" was a solid rocker that proved the band had chops and charisma. "Slow Horse" another highlight progressed from pensive to peppy. During their show they did an instrument switch. They closed with "I Believe In Rock N' Roll" a bold piece in which they were able to get the crowd to sing some yahs back and forth. Their lead singer Matt Pillion was also a multi-instrumentalist who added a saucy sax solo to the mix.

The centrally located bergenPAC continues to host a broad range of artists such as Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Upcoming events at the theater include Little Anthony & The Imperials, Martin Sexton, Late Nite Catechism, Byun Jin Sub, The Soft Parade, Extreme, Sarah Chang and Sha Na Na.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band Are Amped Up at the bergenPAC
Show openers Stolen Rhodes proved to be the real deal with their classic rock tinged set.

Related Links: For more information on ROBERT RANDOLPH and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Robert Randolph | Stolen Rhodes | bergenPAC.org | Lickety Split CD Review | 2013 RR Review

(Originally Published on December 21, 2014)

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