On Saturday night, The Motet, BoomBox, and The New Mastersounds hit Red Rocks Amphitheatre, marking one of the most highly anticipated, early summer shows at the legendary outdoor venue in Morrison, Colorado. From the opening set from the British jazz-funk fusion quartet to the fiery headlining show from the Colorado funk favorites, fans were frenzied throughout the special night.
The New Mastersounds kicked off the funky festivities, returning to the venue for the first time since their debut in 2011, when they opened for Umphrey’s McGee. Fans were clearly eager to see the British four-piece return to the Red Rocks stage, and The New Mastersounds returned that energy in spades. As a special treat, The New Mastersounds’ invited a horn section featuring trumpeter Mike Olmos and saxophonist Jason Mingledorff to join them for their entire performance, adding a layer of additional depth and vibrancy to their already tight-knit funk.
Opening the show with the infectiously groovy and intricate “High & Wide”, off the band’s 2015 Made For Pleasure, The New Mastersounds’ show got off to a dramatic start. With a quick hello from drummer Simon Allen, the group moved into “Tantaus”, a high-energy song off their latest release, Renewable Energy, which was an early set highlight. Heavily featuring keyboardist Joe Tatton, guitarist Eddie Roberts and bassist Pete Shand led the crowd in clapping as Tatton tore through the tune and led to its climax.
Given Eddie Roberts’ long-standing love for Grant Green, the band took the opportunity to honor Green with another Renewable Energy inspired by the famed Blue Note guitarist. At this point, Roberts took the spotlight, offering up a characteristically meticulous and cascading guitar solo, which was complemented later by a slower and sensual trumpet solo offered by Olmos. While the majority of the set saw the band showcasing their more recent work, next up was a propulsive take on “Coming Up Roses”, a throwback to 2003’s Be Yourself, before landing in “In The Middle”, which was an immediate fan favorite. Shand was the stand-out in “In The Middle”, leading the tune with his steady, rapid-fire groove. Along with Allen, the rhythm section created a fiery base to allow Roberts and Tatton to go off on explosive riffs.
With the crowd truly captivated after the energetic song, the band offered up another older tune, “You Got It All”, which featured a quick disco clap (after which Allen complimented the crowd, “You did very well there”) and a percussive sax solo from Mingledorff. The band followed this with “Yokacoka”, another tune off the band’s 2018 Renewable Energy. With the song highlighting the band’s range, switching between more laidback and melodic sections and the song’s galloping theme as Roberts’ nimble fretwork shined throughout. From there, the band closed out their set with James Gang’s “Funk #49”, with the catchy cover sending the crowd into a frenzy.
From there, BoomBox, the long-celebrated groovy electronic-rock duo headed by Zion Rock Godchaux, took the stage. Since the original turntablist, Russ Randolph, left the band following the band’s New Year’s Eve run in 2016, DJ Harry has stepped in and risen to the occasion. Despite the relatively new lineup change, the duo sounded tight as ever, offering up a crowd-pleasing mix of classics from their fan-favorite debut, 2005’s Vision Of Backbeat, 2010’s Downriverelectric, and 2014’s Filling In The Color.
With the band known for eschewing setlists in favor of reading the energy of the crowd, their set perfectly mirrored the energy of the audience, with the band favoring more trance-oriented and at points tribal flavors—a wise move, as their set offered a welcome palette cleanser between the two full-band funk ensembles sandwiching them. Groovy throughout, highlights of their set included BoomBox’s extended take on “India” and the shreddy yet smooth guitar riffing during “Tonight”.
BoomBox’s set offered the perfect transition from day into night, and when The Motet finally took the stage for their show-closing headlining set, the crowd was amped and ready for the hometown throwdown. With the addition of two backup singers and the addition of String Cheese Incident’s percussionist Jason Hann throughout the night, The Motet’s sound was sounding fuller than ever. Furthermore, given the departure of the band’s longtime trumpeter, Gabe Mervine, and the group’s recent replacement of Parris Fleming, the newest addition to the band proved himself in spades, with the horn section also featuring saxophonist Drew Sayers sounding dialed in during the high-octane performance.
The Motet opened up with a take on Sly & The Family Stone’s “I Get High On You”, led in by the band’s charismatic vocalist Lyle Divinsky. An energetic start to the night, the opening tune saw an early drum breakdown featuring bandleader and drummer Dave Watts and Hann, showing off their guest percussionist for the evening. With a gorgeous lighting rig designed by Luke Stratton as the band’s backdrop, The Motet then moved into “Like We Own It”, the first track off the band’s self-titled 2014 release. Groovy and more upbeat, the rhythm section locked in and gave guitarist Ryan Jalbert the chance to unleash, offering up a buoyant guitar solo, before Fleming got a solo, proving himself as a more than worthy replacement of Gabe Mervine.
Following the huge close to the song heralded in by Livinsky’s out-of-this-world vocals, the lead singer took the time to introduce Fleming to the crowd, announcing that their new trumpeter was both a Red Rocks virgin and celebrating his birthday. After the crowd went wild for the “young Parisian,” the band kicked into a sultry and soulful “That Dream”, a brand-new tune premiered in March that was written by Jalbert with lyrics from Divinsky.
Divinsky left the stage for an instrumental, “Rippin Herb”, which has become a fan-favorite off the band’s most recent release, Totem. The song offered the band’s resident keyboard wizard, Joey Porter, his first real chance to step out for a solo, with Porter laying out a frenetic, high-octane run that built the song to a peak. From there, the tune settled into a solid groove, with Drew Sayers offering up a cascading sax solo that served as a wonderful counterpoint to the steady riding of the rhythm section. “Rippin Herb” also saw the band’s awe-inspiring bassist, Garrett Sayers, featured, with him unleashing toward the end of the set before Porter led in the close of the song.
For the next tune, Divinsky came out and Porter led in the start of “Danger”, which had a New Orleans-esque vibe and soaring horns and whose start was grounded by Sayers on bass. Porter offered up spacey sounds that complimented the vibe of the song, and given the crowd’s reaction and singing along, was one of the favorite’s of the night. While Fleming had been previously featured, “Danger” also saw the trumpeter truly shine by adding a soulful and dramatic solo over the laidback and easy groove of the song.
From there, The Motet offered up a brand-new debut for the eager crowd, performing a new track, “Compatible”, for the first time ever. Tinged with r&b undertones and funky bridge, you can check out a video of the latest from The Motet below. For “Kneebone”, Divinsky and the other vocalists once again left the stage, and the low-end was represented well during the dub-tinged tune. The steady, heavier tune began to build, eventually ending with a rocking and reverb-y reprieve that gave the set a grittier edge.
Following this tune, Jason Hann and Dave Watts took the crowd on a percussive journey, with the rest of the band leaving the stage. During this extended drum solo, the duo ran through a number of styles and eventually invited a number of guest percussionists up to the stage to help round out the ongoing segment.
Following this huge segment, all of the members of The Motet returned to the stage. Divinsky led the vocalists in pristine three-part harmonies, and the band seemingly favored the jubilant nature of the tune. To end the feel-good track, Jalbert laid out a powerful, psychedelic guitar solo that filled the outdoor amphitheater beautifully and made for a triumphant resolution to the tune.
“Supernova” came next, another relatively new tune that the band released last year. In the time since last year, the song has tightened up significantly and served as a keystone to the set, with the disco breakdown leading to a huge response from the crowd. Following this, Divinsky explained that those in attendance for the Red Rocks show were family, adding that “because we are family, we can get down in new ways.” To the surprise and delight of fans, out of left field, the band launched into a standout rendition of Ginuwine’s “Pony”.
Keeping on with the family theme after this unexpected cover, The Motet brought out Gabe Mervine, the band’s former trumpeter, for the final set-closing renditions of “Keep On Don’t Stoppin'” and “The Truth”. With Mervine, Sayers, and Fleming all on horns together, it served as a passing of the torch of sorts and was a major highlight of the night. The augmented horns sounded great and drove the crowd into a frenzy, as did Porter’s breakout of his trusty talk box, which had been absent for the majority of the night. The final tune, “The Truth”, was a huge close to the band’s set, with Divinsky crushing his vocals and the horns weaving in and out of one another, to tremendous effect.
For the encore, the band returned with the fast-paced and soulful “Cretan”, which eventually took a darker turn as the song unfolded. From there, the band moved into “Get It Right”, a celebratory tune marked by bending horns, upbeat vocals, and a huge close, which saw Garrett highlighted before Joey, then the horns, then Divinsky added into the mix.
You can check out full video of The Motet’s wild return to Red Rocks on Saturday night below, courtesy of nugs.net. You can also check out a gallery of photos from the night below, courtesy of Keith Griner of Phierce Photography.
Setlist: The Motet | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 6/2/2018
Set: High On You, Like We Own It, Dream, Rippin’ Herb, Danger, Compatible, Kneebone, Drum/Percussion, Know It, Supernova, Pony > Keep On, The Truth
Encore: Cretan, Get It Right
The Motet – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO – 6/2/2018