Cory Wong brought the Wongnotes to Brooklyn Steel on Friday night as the Cory & The Wongnotes tour continues.

While Wong has been known to vary his approach from tour to tour, album to album—and there are many, many albums–the made-for-TV approach with Cory & The Wongnotes feels like his most authentic and engaging stage show yet.

Largely foregoing banter in favor of featuring the group of world-class players surrounding him onstage, the prolific Wong led the ten-piece outfit through a mix of songs not just from 2021’s Cory & The Wongnotes LP, for which this band was created, but from his vast array of recent albums.

Wong, Sonny Thompson (bass/guitar/vox), Kevin Gastonguay (piano), Negah Santos (percussion), Petar Janjic (drums), and a five-piece horn section bursting with chops served as the backing band, while guests like opening act/mandolin virtuoso Sierra Hull and tour regular/Vulfpeck vocalist Antwaun Stanley also got their time in the spotlight. Hull lit the fuse on “Over The Mountain”, a new song she had just written with Cory via Zoom, before sliding into the Chris Thile slot on “Bluebird”, staking her own claim on the tune’s notable “now the mandolin player goes off” section with astonishing proficiency.

Stanley stayed hidden away until the show’s second set, when he came out to thunderous applause to sing a few of his own new tunes as well as some of Cory & The Wongnotes‘s fan-favorite vocal tracks.

The band had a few unexpected surprises in store, too, like a masterfully crafted Stevie Wonder horn breakdown that bled from “Isn’t She Lovely” into a full-band “Sir Duke” interlude, or some instrument-swapping between Wong and Thompson—who happens to play a mean upside-down, left-handed guitar solo.

Related: Cory Wong Presents New Live Performance, ‘Wong On Ice’ [Watch]

For the encore, Wong acquiesced to a pair of audience requests. First, he dove into “Meditation”, the uplifting melody he introduced on Elevator Music For An Elevated Mood but truly set free on his Meditations collaborative EP with Jon Batiste, which earned him his first Grammy nomination. The simple yet enveloping tune expanded powerfully in the live setting, building and rippling out in waves, allowing for more emotional ebb and flow than the airtight funk bandleader typically invites.

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Finally, acknowledging and then breaking the “rule” among Vulfpeck members about not playing Vulf songs with solo projects (what’s the difference anymore, really?), the band tore into the live arrangement of “Dean Town” orchestrated for the recent live album, The Paisley Park Session, inflatable tube men flailing around them.

If you’re a fan of Cory Wong, or a fan of Vulfpeck, or just a lover of powerhouse bands, Cory & The Wongnotes is a tour you don’t want to miss. Rather than compulsively parodying himself with schtick and general zaniness, Cory lets music do the talking with the mighty Wongnotes—and that music speaks volumes about how far he’s come as a bandleader.

Wong’s own sentiment when introducing Hulls’ guest appearance perhaps best sums it up: After starting to refer to her as “one of the most amazing talents on this planet,” he paused and adjusted. “But really, I could say this about anyone up here.”

Check out a few photos and video clips from Brooklyn Steel show below. Cory & The Wongnotes continue their tour tonight, February 5th, at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club. For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head here.


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