Robert Randoph & the Family Band – Brooklyn Bowl – November 20, 2012
You’d be hard pressed to find a more likeable act than Robert Randolph & the Family Band. It’s not just the fact that a large chunk of the group comes from the same family as the supremely talented pedal-steel guitarist—it’s that Randolph’s music is just so damn eclectic. In the artist notes on his Web site, Randolph called his latest record, We Walk This Road, “…a celebration of African-American music over the past 100 years….” In truth, it showcases his signature fusion of gospel, soul, funk and blues. But it’s clear that there’s a hefty helping of sonic diversity in the mix. Last night at Brooklyn Bowl, along with covers of songs by preeminent black artists like Bill Withers (“Use Me”) and Michael Jackson (“Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough”), the group jammed on selections from legendary white rockers like Bob Dylan (“Maggie’s Farm”) and Led Zeppelin (“Whole Lotta Love”).
To hammer in the point further, the band invited Marc Roberge, from frat-boy favorite O.A.R., to pop onstage for a few songs. It’s this ability to integrate a variety of musical influences that underscores Randolph’s likeability. The second—and equally important— piece of the puzzle is Randolph’s unbelievably energetic show. He slowly hooked in the crowd with his virtuosity, beginning the night teasing his signature licks by playing them in short bursts and then finishing up the set with prolonged, heavily climactic solos. “Can I get a witness!” he screamed to the delighted audience after one particularly uplifting jam.
As it turns out, Randolph had no trouble doing that at all. Halfway through the set, one incredibly bold woman climbed onstage to display her dancing ability. (Quick note: She didn’t come anywhere close to vocalist Lenesha Randolph’s kinetic prowess.) And in a matter of seconds, 12 or so women were strutting their stuff in front of hundreds of delighted fans. After the song ended and people returned to the status quo, two of the interlopers planted big, grateful kisses on Randolph’s cheek. It was a fitting symbol of the crowd’s collective love for the band. —Alex Kapelman