Last night, Robert Randolph and the Family Band continued their current tour behind their newly released album Got Soul with a gig at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre. Randolph, a noted master of the “sacred steel” guitar, turned the concert hall into the Church of Soul and the crowd into his congregation as he played preacher–conducting the ceremony with searing rock riffs and compelling his talented bandmates to testify! Dressed in a sharp silver-lapelled suit jacket, Randolph led the evening’s skilled Family Band lineup through a fiery performance. The evening was heavy on tried-and-true rock-and-roll covers and newer material from Got Soul, in addition to a show-closing selection from the band’s 2002 debut live album Live At The Wetlands.
The set had a loose, improvisational feel, and for good reason: second guitarist Dean James, who led the band on vocals through a cover of The Band‘s “Up On Cripple Creek,” was a temporary addition to the lineup—Randolph found the guitarist via Instagram and invited him out to play some dates. Robert’s cousin “Little” Steve Ladson, who played an excellent performance on guitar (and sang a cover of Bill Withers‘ “Use Me Up”), usually serves as the band’s bassist. He and Rayfield “Ray Ray” Holloman, the band’s regular guitarist, swapped roles for the night—just for fun, it would appear—and both played so well that the uninitiated likely couldn’t tell that anything was amiss. Keyboardist Kasey Squares and vocalist Lanesha Randolph turned in top-notch performances as well, each adding texture to the electric exhibition. Randolph even welcomed an energetic three-piece horn section (two trombones, one sax) to join him for a pair of Got Soul originals. Randolph’s enthusiasm and his pleas for “somethin’ funky” from the brass-men were so contagious that all three were jumping and dancing by the end of the sit-in.
As always, Randolph brimmed with rockstar mystique and charismatic swagger—playing through a broken string like he didn’t even miss it, standing on his chair, and wrestling with his signature instrument. The soul flowed through him like electricity through holy water. Along with the Band and Withers covers, Randolph and company delivered an instrumental run through Black Sabbath classic “War Pigs” and a particularly lovely solo jam on Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” after the rest of the band had left the stage one by one for the show’s end.
However, while the covers were fun, the band showed their true powers through their original material, with tunes like “I Want It” and “Got Soul” exuding the raw, emotional, joyous, guitar-fuzz cacophony for which Randolph has become widely known. The show ended with Randolph preaching instructions to the crowd as he played his final notes: “Somebody feel wonderful in here!” And as if by magic—or the grace of soul—the crowd heard him, and abided.
Check out a gallery of photos from the performance below, courtesy of photographer Stephen Olker.
You can also watch Live For Live Music‘s Facebook Live Got Soul Digital Release Party with Robert Randolph below, featuring live fan Q&A, an impromptu “Voodoo Child” jam with album songwriting collaborator Eric Krasno, and a live performance of Got Soul single “I Want It.”
Robert Randolph and the Family Band continue their Got Soul Tour this weekend with performances at Hopewell, VA’s Beacon Theatre tonight, Southside Arts and Music Fest in Bethlehem, PA tomorrow (Friday, April 28th), and Portland, ME’s Aura on Saturday (April 29th). For a full list of upcoming shows, or to purchase tickets, head Randolph’s website.