Lettuce w/Late Night Radio

1884 Lounge, Memphis, TN

October 17, 2014


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Photos: Ellis Jones

Review: Randy Harris

Presented by the entertainment website Live For Live Music, the renowned funk band Lettuce is in the midst of an ambitious fall tour that has taken the group far from their hometown of New York City, deep into the South, and will bring them back up through their beloved Northeast over the next couple of weeks. Following stops in Jackson, Mississippi, Atlanta, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee, the “Live For Live Lettuce” tour culminated its week at the beautiful 1884 Lounge in Memphis, Tennessee. The band, consisting of Adam Smirnoff (guitar), Adam Deitch (drums), Erick “Jesus” Coomes (bass), Neal Evans (keyboards), Eric Bloom (trumpet) and Ryan Zoidis (saxophone), played for a packed house on a gorgeous Friday night in Memphis and was joined by Cochemea Gastelum on sax and singer Alecia Chakour for an amazing night of funk. Opening up for Lettuce on this leg of the tour was DJ/Producer Late Night Radio. While the murmurs among the crowd tended to lean negatively toward the fact that a DJ was opening up for a live band, I thought the tunes were great, and he could’ve been a great opening act if people had been more open to it. I think in most markets, the audience for electronic music and Lettuce tend to overlap, but that unfortunately did not seem to be the case in Memphis. Plenty of people were still dancing and partying, however, and I thought LNR played some great tunes. After a somewhat long intermission, Lettuce took the stage to a massive wave of cheers and applause. Memphis was ready to get funky, that much is for sure! Now, to set the stage, I must explain that the 1884 Lounge stage is pretty much right on top of the crowd. It is a very low stage, barely waist high (even for a short guy like me), and there is no photo pit or anything, so the crowd can get literally right up to the stage. This setup, along with the massive audience that overflowed into the adjacent rooms where the bars were set up, provided a very intimate setting. The band was obviously digging the closeness, and the palpable energy flying back and forth felt so tangible, like I could reach out and snatch it out of the air. Aside from the energy, the next thing I noticed was how extremely tight the band was, especially the horns. Spot-on staccato hits and blaring legato blasts were strategically utilized and masterfully executed. One of my favorite things about the band is that there is no focus on one single player. Each member gets his turn to solo and show off a bit, but they are all equals, moving together as a team through each tune. Lettuce is simply an awesome group of musicians who play exceedingly well together. The band played a great mix of old and new tunes, from fan favorites such as “Squadlive,” “Outta Here” and “By Any Shmeans Necessary,” all the way up to “Lettsanity,” “Let It GOGO” and “Bowler” off of their latest album, and even a couple of brand new tracks, all the while keeping the entire crowd engaged and on their feet. Singer Alicia Chakour joined the band onstage here and there throughout the evening, including a very special encore of “The Sun.” Bringing some incredibly soulful and passionate vocals to the table, Ms. Chakour added a whole new element to the Live For Live Lettuce stage. Overall, the night was an overwhelming success on all sides. The crowd was left with heads spinning and minds reeling with excitement from the absolutely killer show that Lettuce put on, and the band obviously had a blast onstage. There really is no better way to describe Lettuce, or any of the members’ individual playing, besides to say that they are the modern reincarnation of a straight-up funk band. Many bands today incorporate funky licks or parts or even full songs into their repertoires, but no modern band can play a full night of funk the way Lettuce does. The band concludes its Live For Live Lettuce fall tour with a string of dates in the Northeast and will wrap it up at Bear Creek Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida. Catch them while you can, and keep a sharp eye out for more big things to keep on coming from the funk powerhouse that is Lettuce.

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