So alive…so alive…soul live… Soulive!

By Sean Anderson


The House of Blues

October 12, 2002

What could be better than truly feeling the vibe of the audience around you at a live show? Yes, I know, people always say, “oh man, we could totally feel the audience,” “there was something shared between everyone,” or “we were all on the same wavelength, it was awesome.” At the House of Blues on October 12, though, were literally were hundreds of people all feeling the same vibe, and this was accomplished by the buoyant hardwood floors that swayed, sunk, and rose to each and every step of the mesmerized crowd, all under the control of the music of an amazing creation, Soulive. Is it jazz? Sure, some of the best out now. Is it a mixture of funky jams, smooth bass lines, laid back hip-hop, in-your-face guitar solos, insane key riffs, and incredible drum solos? Yes, all of that and much more. The guys of Soulive make music like none other, not only can it not be labeled, but their amazingly tight sound cannot be recreated. Neal Evans, Eric Krasno, and Alan Evans are incredible musicians, and there is no questioning that.

In Soulive’s three-and-a-half hour performance last Saturday night, the music only stopped for a total of 15 minutes between sets. If something needed to be said, if the crowd needed to be roused, or if for any other reason the playing had to be stopped, there wasn’t a quiet moment. One of the trio would continue to play, whether it be Neal Evans on the Hammond B-3 and clavichord playing the smoothest bass lines while simultaneously wailing away solos on the organ, or Eric Krasno hitting every note on his guitar while harmonizing with his voice, making both sound as one—not only a great crowd pleaser, but a interesting addition to the sound as well. It could also be the seven-minute drum solo that had the crowd following every hand movement with their bodies, following each crash with their heads, moving their feet to each thump of the resounding bass drum. Alan Evans teased the audience by changing tempos and playing false conclusions—coming back with a violent and melodic crash of cymbals. You think after seven minutes of improvised drumming there would be a triumphant conclusion—and there was—but the closing crash was the opening beat for the next jam. No breaks, straight playing, a pure three-hour vibe of amazing music.

Soulive performed songs from all of their albums—reaching back to Turn It Out—and four new tunes. When listening to the music, you imagine several guitars, a myriad of keys, a bassist, and a drummer Yet when you see them playing in front of your face, you only see three people producing an amazingly complete sound. On Soulive albums they will often feature a horn section, or a variety of vocalists. On their latest album from Blue Note Records, Next, the guys of Soulive work with vocalists spanning from the familiar but unique Dave Matthews on “Joyful Girl” and the soulful Amel Larrieux on “I Don’t Know” to the pure hip-hop sound of Black Thought from the Roots on “Clap!” and Talib Kweli on the remix of “Bridge To ‘Bama.” Unfortunately, there wasn’t a brass section or a featured vocalist (besides Krasno’s scat over his guitar solos) at their show this weekend. The trio was quite enough—I’m not sure that the crowd could deal with any more sounds; the music hall was near the breaking point the whole show.

The House of Blues and Soulive attracted an interesting and very eclectic group of people. In the V.I.P. lounge, I was able to mingle with personal friends of the band, “high rollers” of the Chicago jazz scene, and some power-tripping middle-aged men that boasted 30 dollar cigars and 22-year-old women. I didn’t mingle much; I sat in the corner with a notebook bobbing my head to the unreal tunes from below. It was a totally different vibe in the lounge, too superficial. I had to get closer to the source. The floor, on the other hand, was an amazing spectrum of music fans. There were bare-footed hippies dancing in circles, their baggy tie-dye pants waving in circles, totally absorbed by the vibes all around and the music pulsating from the stage. There were cats sitting in the back of the floor, relaxing and grooving to the sound. There were insane fans in front of the stage, writhing and dancing, all in complete awe of being so close to source of the music that was their meat, their soul. There were also a myriad of people who came to simply enjoy good music. They ranged from teenagers grooving as close to the speakers as possible to middle-aged business types feeling the music hit them through their Brooks Brothers suits. I was frankly amazed by the response of the crowd. When you are in the mix, feeling the music, then nothing else matters, you feel as one—the music, the crowd, and yourself. Pulling back, I witnessed the crowd as a fantastic spectacle of sharing between musicians and the audience.

After the second set, I was exhausted physically and mentally. Of course I could listen to another three hours of the music. I didn’t need to, however. Soulive amazed me. I have been listening to their albums for a couple years, and I could dig them listen after listen. Live Soulive is amazing; there is nothing else I can say. If you want to hear an awesome blend of jazz, hip-hop, blues, and rock beats, and a continual jam that hits every high and low, the answer is in Soulive. Their albums are good enough: Turn It Out, Doin’ Something, and Next, but seeing these masters play live is a whole different experience. It is the morning after the show and I still have Neal’s key solos ringing in my ears. It’s such a great feeling.