Lettuce brought what is looking to be an Annual Royal Family Holiday Rage to Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl this past Wednesday. And if you were ready to get funked up, this was the place to be. The air at the Bowl was thick with funk and soul.

Nigel Hall opened the night up, and as always, Hall brought his A-game to the table. His brand of neo-soul makes you feel like you are going to church; you can really hear how he has been influenced by the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Herbie Hancock, and possibly even Donny Hathaway. Hall has serious pipes, and can kill on just about any track that he sings on. When he sings it’s almost like he is preaching the gospel. I recently saw him at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, NY as a member of the Warren Haynes Band, as well. Whether he is singing lead or backup vocals, he impresses nonetheless; Wednesday was no exception to the rule.

Lettuce came to the stage, and the crowd was ready to get down. They originated in 1992 at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. The way these guys feed off each other, you can see that they have been playing with one another for quite some time. Lettuce opened with “Madison Square”, a new song from their forthcoming 2012 album. They caught a nice groove, and the night was off to a smashing start. From the beginning, Eric Krasno was locked in and played some of the tightest, crisp licks that I have seen in a while. Whether it is with Lettuce, Soulive, or a mere guest appearance, I can’t recall a time where I have witnessed Krasno playing anything less than stellar; he just always appears to be spot on.

“By Any Shmeens Necessary” from 2008′s RAGE! was a welcome addition to the set. Adam Smirnoff plays some really nice rhythm, and he and “E.D” Coomes on the bass were bouncing around with each other all night. Coomes looks like a crazy lion, with his long, flowing blonde hair, and his big, bushy beard. He was jumping around on stage with a grin from ear to ear, for pretty much the entire set. Call me crazy, but he looks like he would be a great person to go out and party with – just saying. Much of the set comprised of new songs from the yet-to-be-named album. Everybody looked stoked to be playing these tracks live, and the crowd didn’t seem to mind whatsoever. Lettuce was simply playing too well for anyone to care what song was being played. Every time I looked around, all I saw were smiling faces and people getting their groove on. “Slipping into Darkness” by War made a great appearance in the set. It was really heavy-hitting, and the Shady Horns were on fire. You will never hear me complain about a horn section that has their act together, as these guys do.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about Adam Deitch and Neal Evans….well, not really, I was getting to them. In any band, the drummer needs to hold it down; without that, you don’t have much going for you. And Adam Deitch is straight-up nasty. I couldn’t help but watch him on the big-screen, just so I could see how quick he is on the sticks. At one point, he played an outstanding drum solo that got the crowd moving and shaking. It was at this point that the temperature in the Bowl seemed to steadily rise, not just for the fans, but the band as well. Lettuce got straight-up funky, and the place just went off into an all-out dance party. It was at this point that I noticed Neal Evans simply killing it on his Hammond B3. This guy looks like a mad scientist when he is playing. It’s like every note travels from the organ, to his fingers, up his arms, and makes its way through the rest of his body. It’s almost like a head, shoulders, knees and toes thing with Evans. This was noticeable during “King of the Burgs”, where his gyrating was almost James Brown-like. Listening to his organ playing on this evening brought me back to the first time I heard the instrumentals on the Beastie Boys’ 1994 album Ill Communication (wow, that really was 17 years ago. I am beginning to feel old).

The set ended, fittingly, with “Blast Off” also from RAGE! I love the horns on this track, and Krasno showed the crowd the maestro that he truly is. This song has such a bump to it, and Krasno’s licks make you put on your dirty face. For the encore, Lettuce was joined by Nigel Hall and Alecia Chakour on vocals. Chakour’s soulful voice was a welcome addition to Hall’s on “Making My Way Back Home” and the Curtis Mayfield cover “Move On Up”. The crowd joined in as well, and it made for a great way to end the evening. Many thanks to the folks from the Royal Family, as well as everyone at Brooklyn Bowl, for a great evening to help get warmed up for the holidays.