De La Soul – MCR 1.25.17

Soul is that staggeringly overused but somehow necessary word in music writing, and don’t even get me started on “soulful.” Yes, I’ve used it. Yes, it’s a crutch. And yes, it is real. We heard it in a couple of bands this week that I think are going to be lighting up your concert calendars for years to come. This week, with tons to do, I’m leaning less on text and more on the photos of guest photographer and Roots social media sister Jacqueline Justice.


Southern Avenue is the re-configured Ori Naftali Band, still with the namesake Israel-born shredder on electric guitar but with less explicit blues and more gobsmacking singing and writing from Tierinii Jackson (pictured). She dominates the room with her body and her voice, dancing like a disciple of Tina Turner and carving her way through insanely difficult passages with clarity and purpose. Props to her sister Tikyra for spot on drumming and props to the band for fully developed epic songs like “Rock Steady.”


I had Waker perhaps unfairly pegged as a standard twenty-something jam band, and there’s an element of that, but the septet really stood out with the complex shapes and pop-craft of its songs and the clarion voice of front man Chase Bader (pictured). Over smooth soul/jazz and gospel church chord changes, the keys and sax paired off for catchy riffs and Bader belted with style and color. Electric guitarist Conor Kelly took time to stretch out on a nice slide solo in “Feels So Strong,” while “False Calls” had a light and bright celebratory feel. Like Southern Avenue, these guys can make music and elevate a scene. They’d be a great double bill.


Things felt very different with Cicada Rhythm on stage. Overtones of haunted Southern hills and forests mixed with rich and lovely musical ideas for a sound that I think is unique in our field. Andrea DeMarcus took lead vocal on opener “Even In The Shadows” while making her acoustic bass really speak and groove. Dave Kirslis was frontman on “Shake Up” but every song featured spectral, sophisticated harmony singing. They closed with the ultra-fun “Dirty Hound.”


The guys from Exile have flown past the 50 year mark as a band together, but to meet them is to discover guys with the kind, open-hearted enthusiasm of bands in their first years of existence. It was actually disarming. Their 1980s hits jukebox set had bounce and spark, and it reached the crowd as only deep seated memory music can. An a cappella take on “People Get Ready” set up their set-closing, standing-ovation getting No. 1 smash “Kiss You All Over.”

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