Robert Randolph & The Family Band | 04.24.09

rr2.jpgWhether sitting down at the pedal steel or standing up with an electric, Randolph is a world-class guitarist.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pageant, St. Louis

I have seen a lot of good shows this year so far, but few have had the energy, heart and pure unadulterated joy of Robert Randolph & The Family Band. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this genre-defying group on several occasions and it’s always a great time. Led by pedal steel guitar virtuoso Randolph, the band fuses the best of rock, soul, funk and gospel into an infectious sound that’s all their own. Their passion for music and love for mankind shine through on every song.

As the Loop bustled on a gorgeous spring night, opener Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears took the stage, setting the tone for the fun that was to follow. This Austin, Texas-based blues/soul combo was the perfect appetizer for the evening ahead. Lewis’ achingly soulful voice is reminiscent of everything from James Brown to Mick Jagger and he definitely commanded the attention of the room.

When Randolph hit the stage, everyone was fully geared up and in the mood to boogie. The band got off to a steady, if somewhat slow, start, continuing to build on the crowd’s energy throughout the nearly three-hour set.

Whether sitting down at the pedal steel or standing up with an electric, Randolph is a world-class guitarist. Trained in the House of God Church, growing up he played church music exclusively. Until he was discovered by the secular community, he wasn’t even familiar with masters like Buddy Guy or Muddy Waters or bands like the Allman Brothers.

The gospel sound is deeply infused in the band’s music, both instrumentally and lyrically. On songs like "Deliver Me" from the 2006 album Colorblind, background singer Lenesha Randolph (Robert’s sister) took us to church with her powerhouse vocals. The only "mistake" I think the band made all night was keeping her hidden behind a stack of amps at the back of the stage when she so clearly belonged front and center.

Bassist/vocalist Daneyl Morgan and drummer Marcus Randolph, both cousins, kept things up-tempo most of the night, making it hard to sit down for even a minute. One of the evening’s highlights was when Randolph invited the ladies in the audience on stage to dance for a cover of "Hip Shake" (written by blues man Slim Harpo but made famous by the Rolling Stones on their seminal album Exile on Main St.). Randolph beamed at his pedal steel as probably 50 delighted young women shook their hips all around him.

In a more mellow, but nonetheless engaging moment, Randolph did a fully instrumental, somewhat jazzy cover of Bobby Brown’s "Every Little Step I Take" – a delicious new take on a pop song everyone knows.

Showing his versatility on the guitar, he even teased Zeppelin’s opening riff from "Whole Lotta Love" before launching into Jimi Hendrix’s "Purple Haze." After ending the long and energetic set, the band took a brief break, then returned with an encore of their popular song "Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That" from Colorblind, ending things well past the Pageant’s 11:30 cutoff time on a truly high note. As the audience, myself included, spilled out onto Delmar, we couldn’t conceal our grins. With all the bad news in the world, everyone needs a little joy now and then. Robert Randolph and the Family Band served up a heaping helping. | Amy Burger

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