Live in the District at 9:30 Club (Photos & Review)
Last night at the 9:30 Club The Word put on a sensational performance.
People who complain that good music is dead haven’t seen The Word. In my opinion, Supergroups are hit or miss. But The Word is different. The group didn’t just meet my expectations, they shattered them.
The band features Robert Randolph, North Mississippi Allstars, and John Medeski of Medeski, Martin, & Wood. Robert is frequently traveling with his Family Band, all members of North Mississippi Allstars are involved in numerous projects year round, and Medeski remains highly sought after by jazz, jam, and rock players alike when he’s not on the road with Medeski, Martin, & Wood. Put all five of them into one band and you’ve got the sacred steel meets jazz fusion meets the Mississippi blues.
The opening “Prelude> You Brought The Sunshine,” a cut off the newest album, set the mood for the night. The tune kicked off with some nice hearty bass fills from Chew, a solid piano foundation from Medeski, and some colorful guitar work from Luther. From the gates, the band was locked in.
Expressivity. That seems to be the theme of The Word. John Medeski plays one of the most expressive instruments around, the Hammond B-3 organ. Robert’s work on the steel has established him as one of the most well recognized sacred steel players in the country. Luther Dickinson is a fantastic guitarist. He doesn’t just play the blues, he feels them. Luther will make you cry with or without a slide. The constant exchanges between Luther and Robert are almost conversational; one line leads to another, then a response, then a counter. Chris Chew’s bass locks everything in tight. As a guitarist, Chew is the type of ideal bassist to play with in many cases because he listens, plays foundational and creative lines that serve the best purpose of the song.
After a beast of an opener, the took it down a notch with another song off the new album, “Early in the Moanin’ Time.” This tune was a bit more relaxed, locking in the crowd for a night of swampy improvisation.
The sounds of the Mississippi were evident in “Blood On that Rock.” But they did not stop there. They went straight into a roaring Stevie Wonder cover, “You Haven’t Done Nothin.’” Originally released in 1974 and featured backing vocals by the Jackson 5, the band made it their own. Robert’s slide worth was nothing short of angelic, transforming the 9:30 club into the Church of Sacred Steel.
Brothers Luther and Cody were just on point, as usual, connecting seamlessly at the flip of a coin. They’ve played together as brothers on and off their entire life. This is life for them. And it shines on that stage. That is where the magic happens.
Cody has a great new kit. Thick, tonal sounds emanate from his kick drum with tight, radiant crashes on his cymbals. He also took a little break from the kit to get down on the washboard for a bit, a signature staple he’s been doing for years. He doesn’t just use it as a gimmick; Cody plays the day lights out of a washboard. Honestly, could’ve gone for even more washboard that night, but someone has got to play drums right? Well, that night Robert Randolph hopped up on the kit for a bit.
The set was firing on all cylinders. The boys went back to some nice cuts off the album, Soul Food I & Soul Food II, inspired by the great food they ate while recording the album (Relix). Without hesitation, the band ripped into a Jam that segued into “Joyful Sounds.” This was when it was very clear that this is one of the most talented bands I’ve seen over the years. These are the types of musicians that make you want to learn how to play guitar, form a band, and play gigs. The effects Robert Randolph conjured up his wah on Joyful Sounds touched everyone in the audience and the groove was simply irresistible and infectious.
The three song encore ended with “New Word Order.” The band had already given the audience an over the top night of music.
There are so many great concerts at the 9:30 Club. This is one of the best I’ve seen. Even Chew told fans after the show, “Ya’ll got a good one”. This one is going in the books as one of my favorite concerts I’ve seen in DC, ever.
That’s the word.
- Prelude > You Brought The Sunshine
- Early In The Moanin’ Time
- Blood On That Rock > You Haven’t Done Nothin’
- Play All Day
- At The Cross
- Come By Here * >
- Washboard Jam > Chocolate Cowboy
- Swamp Road
- Soul Food I
- Soul Food II
- Jam > Joyful Sounds
- E: Prelude > Glory Glory
- New Word Order