Robert Randolph & the Family Band | 11.09.06

The Family Band projects a form of modern-day gospel, blending unified shouts and eternally uplifting lyrics with hip-quaking grooves.


The Pageant, St. Louis

If you left The Pageant on Thursday night without having danced, clapped your hands, or cracked an unsolicited smile, you probably didn't pay much attention to the organic joy emitting from Robert Randolph and his near-literal family band. Coming off the release of Colorblind, their second, and intentionally more polished studio album, Randolph and Co. once again showed what they do best: turning joy, raw passion, and the power of the soul into a timeless, inspiring live performance.

Lead by the pneumatic capabilities of Randolph's signature pedal steel, and backed by the energetic bass and drums of respective cousins Danyel Morgan and Marcus Randolph, the Family Band was rounded out on this night by Hammond organist Jason Crosby, as well as Randolph's little sister Lenesha on backing vocals. As a unit, the Family Band projects a form of modern-day gospel, blending unified shouts and eternally uplifting lyrics with hip-quaking grooves. While Randolph's infectious smile and Stevie Wonder-ish, seated dance moves controlled the stage, his supporters on and off-stage were no less motivated, devoid of any semblance of pompous inhibitions. Put it this way, I've never seen so many white guys dance without looking around to see if they were doing okay. Collared white guys, at that! Thus is the power of Randolph's presence and virtuosity on his House of God inspired pedal steel, not to mention his remarkable ability on a standard electric guitar.

Sporting a black doo-rag, muscular, yet tender in his jovial grin, Randolph emerged among his band members to wild cheers and vibrant expectations. Once seated, a climactic introduction slid easily off of his fingers, building energy until the band erupted with the Colorblind opener, "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That," and there wasn't. An intermingling of Colorblind tunes mixed with jams old, new, and covered, yet the set's diversity did little to slow a relentless energy throughout the packed house. The rug-cutting really began with the funky, Unclassified standout, "I Need More Love," and continued with "Shake Your Hips," a number unashamedly announced as being "for the ladies." Since I wasn't included, I went to the restroom, only to return a minute later to find the stage swarmed with these "ladies," dancing and swooning around the understandably exuberant Randolph, proving (unnecessarily, I thought) once again that he is much cooler than me. Further highlights included new song, "Deliver Me," a raucous cover of the Doobie Brothers-via-the Byrds' "Jesus Is Just Alright " (features Clapton on Colorblind), and the encore "Roll Up," which left the audience sweaty and smiling, no doubt touched by the light shining from one of the music world's rare optimists.

Clearly, Randolph is destined for some sort of "Guitar Greats" status, a nimble-fingered beacon of hope for all curmudgeons lamenting the death of originality in music. Indeed, the colorblind and unclassifiable nature of Randolph's influences, and influence itself, renders his music accessible to all. For these reasons, the Family Band's leader will continue to be mentioned alongside impressive names like Clapton and Santana, both of whom he has collaborated with in the studio. I urge anyone who is interested to go see this band live, while you can still stand close enough to see the white of Randolph's teeth in his ubiquitous smile, and truly feel the love. | Dave Jasmon

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