Review by Andrew Parker
Photography by Rodney Gitzel
Keyboard genius Rich Vogel, a dead ringer for a circa-1970 Ray Manzarek, fired off some thrilling solo shots on his vintage Wurlitzer. Speaking at the set break, Vogel fondly recalled discovering the instrument in a New Orleans pawnshop. After experimenting with the organ's sound, he found it possible to recreate the juicy suspense of the renowned Hammond B-3 by sending his Wurl through a Leslie amp. The rest is basement history -- and for those experiencing his instrumental architecture, the results were pure fried-chicken, muscle-car bliss.
Vocalist Theryl deClouet, a.k.a. 'House Man,' was also on the bus for the tour, and contributed lyrics to maybe a third of the otherwise instrumental set. His smooth delivery added a welcome dash of soul to the band's overall punchy gumbo. It was impressive watching this dude slid out of the gyrating throng, purr like vintage Curtis Mayfield on "There's Something Wrong with This Picture," then coolly leave the stage to resume his shameless flirting at a club table. Nice way to punch the clock in a tour of the hip lounges across the continent!
What makes Galactic such a treat to experience, live, is that all the players crave the spotlight and constantly try to out solo each other while still having heaps of fun in each other's company and playing. Tenor man Eric Traub blew the fiber out of his reed, sending sheets of jazz-laced funk right back to the bartenders at the Chameleon. Meanwhile, bass commander Robert Mercurio and guitar captain Jeff Raines combined for some high-rank funk on "Go Go." With the help of the organ, these two resurrected and did justice to almost every groove in the STAX back catalogue. Hold on, I'm becoming a major Galactic fan!
Certainly not to go without mention was the playing of Stanton Moore on the tubs. Hoping for a better view or perhaps a little extra thump on the kick drum, Moore repeatedly smashed on his kit while standing up, and then a little later changed the pitch of his floor tom by blowing air into the drum. Wacky musicians! His solos left not only the crowd, but the rest of the band, too, with their jaws hanging open.
By their second set, Galactic had the crowd as spellbound as the astronomy geeks outside, searching the skies for the Halle-Bopp comet. Trading solos faster than hockey cards, the sax man tore a page off Maceo Parker's rapsheet and the organist continued to spit out his unique deep-purplized funk. For all the Vancouver ladies in attendance, the group offered "Groovy Lady," an infectious romp that got the crowd wiggling. Before the band called it a night we had seen it all: soul singing, hot soloing and a spontaneous percussion lesson on an empty beer bottle.
There's no need to mince words about Galactic: these guys are shit-hot live. Drop everything -- clothes, whatever -- and see this band next time they come to town!
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