Robert Randolph: hope, love and great music rule
Avalon, Boston, Nov. 19, 2003
By Jeffrey B. Remz
BOSTON - The message of Robert Randolph and the Family Band may be one of hope and love and empowerment.
So, it was certainly a bit more than ironic that what does the young sacred steel guitar master begin his show with than Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" on the day Jackson was charged with child molestation.
Smiles bounded about the stage and in the audience. But give credit to the New Jersey native. Randolph did not play the song with camp or an overt sense of humor. In fact, he did a great job on the cover with his steel playing dominating.
In hindsight, though, based on Randolph's musical direction, it could have been Randolph's way of giving a welcome hand to the embattled Jackson, someone doubtlessly sorely in need of optimism.
Ultimately, who knows if this was really Randolph playing it tongue in cheek at Jackson's expense or playing the compassionate soul?
But the rest of the 110-minute show gave a clear indication of where Randolph is at and headed.
The lyrics of Randolph are filled with positive viewpoints. One of the evening's highlights, "Nobody," is a relationship song, which could easily about one's love of God.
The closing song of the evening, "Why Should I Feel Lonely" from the new disc, "Unclassified," juxtaposes feeling lonely with "People of all races/From Jersey to LA/Grooving to my music/dancing when I play."
The powerhouse of the evening was the closing song of the regular set, "I Need More Love." Randolph gets funky setting a great groove and a chorus that repeats over and over "I need more love every day of my life." Randolph also certainly spread the love by giving up his mic to the crowd in the front to sing the words.
The music is highlighted by Randolph's lively engaging pedal steel playing. This is no country weeping guitar kind of pedal steel. Instead, he plays with great energy, practically like a searing electric guitar.
Randolph is not the only person on stage with musical chops. New organ player/fiddler Josh Crosby is doing a fine job only about a month into his gig. Mainstay drummer Marcus Randolph and bassist Danyel Morgan, Robert Randolph's cousins, do the job on their instruments as well whether setting a rock groove (they did a good cover of Hendrix' "Purple Haze"), soul or gospel sounds. It makes for one lively, uplifting evening.
The music is positive and engaging and so is Randolph's message. As Randolph said, "No matter what you do, don't let nobody steal your love or your joy."
The crowd felt the love and joy of Randolph all night long.
Opening act Los Lonely Boys have been the subject of a positive buzz this year. The music of the trio of the Garza brothers from San Angelo, Texas contains odes to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Los Lobos and others.
They tended to stretch out the songs a lot (sometimes a bit too much), but they generally hit the mark on their often blues-based music. Guitarist Henry Garza is a powerhouse in the group with each member clearly into the music.
Their name is a bit of a misnomer though. Given the response of the crowd, they needn't have felt very lonely at all. With their brand of music, they earned a bunch of new friends in Boston.