Saturday, November 29, 2008

Concert Report: Robert Randolph and the Family Band

When I heard that Robert Randolph and the Family Band were playing a free show at the McDonald Theatre on November 28, I was thrilled. I knew I wanted to go and would do just about anything to do so. I ordered my free ticket on their website, and received it a couple weeks ago. I was looking forward to this night for a while, and today it finally came. I just got back from the show.

It was a mixed experience. I can't say it was the greatest show I've ever attended, but I'm glad I went.

I got there around ten to 6:00 PM. The doors opened at 7, and the show started at 8. My timing was perfect, because I was fourth in line! I wanted to grab a good seat in the balcony so I could have easy access to the bathroom and a seat to sit in. When I got in line, we could hear the sound check going on. I couldn't hear it very clearly, but on occasion you could hear Robert Randolph's guitar crying out.

The doors opened a bit after 7, and I scored a great seat in the second row of the balcony, next to the aisle. I could see very well from where I was sitting. After taking my seat, the waiting game began. I hit the bathroom about fifteen minutes before the show, and played around with my iPod until it was time to start.

Unfortunately, we were graced with an opening act. Not just any opening act - a boring DJ! He started by playing beats over Barack Obama's election-night speech. I enjoyed hearing that part. The rest of it was a boring sound collage that seemed to never end. It finally did end just after 9. I was getting restless and bored, and I wanted to hear the Family Band! That's who I came to see, after all. After the DJ left, we had to wait another 50 minutes or so until the Family Band finally came out to play. It was nearly 10 PM by that time. I was in a sour mood because of all the waiting, but Robert's guitar soothed my troubles.

They started with a couple mid-tempo instrumentals. They weren't really cookin' yet, but they were just getting started. The band setup was different - two steel guitars, drums and bass as usual, rhythm guitar, and no organ player. Robert's sister came along to sing backup vocals. The drummer didn't seem to be Marcus Randolph. I may have been far away from the stage, but I'm pretty sure Marcus is a fairly dark guy, and this drummer seemed lighter-skinned. I didn't catch the name of the second steel guitarist, but I did hear Robert say the guy is a pastor.

Interestingly enough, the Band only played two songs from their studio albums - "I Need More Love" and "Deliver Me." Thinking back, there are so many great songs I wish they would have played! But that's the thing with this group - they'll surprise you. Of course, they played "Shake Your Hips," and of course a bunch of women got on stage to dance. One of them was quite frisky, getting all over Robert while he was trying to play. I don't know what Robert thought about that, if it annoyed him or not, but he seemed a good sport. Ahh, the life of a star, eh?

Robert played quite a bit of electric guitar. It was hard at times to tell who was playing what, but he seems to be just as good on regular guitar. He played the square guitar for a smokin' rendition of "Bo Diddley." The main set ended with a fairly long version of "The March," which was just as good as always.

I only stayed for a bit of the encore. Robert played an instrumental version of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" - that was interesting. Then, the Band started playing another jam, with Robert back on electric guitar, and at that point I figured it was about time to get home. I don't know how long the show lasted, but I got my fill.

Aside from the lateness, I also thought the sound quality wasn't very good. It was LOUD, and I guess I'm not used to loud shows. I think the bass was too high, and Danyel's microphone was also too high. When he sang on the chorus of "Deliver Me," it was almost painful. The guitars sounded pretty good, though. You could clearly hear the talent of Robert on the pedal steel. The guitar playing made the night worth all the trouble.

In summary, this wasn't the perfect show. It wasn't quite the show I anticipated, but I'm not going to let that spoil anything. I'm certainly not going to judge the band by tonight's show. They played pretty well, and I am lucky to have seen them. Until the next time I'm able to do so, I'll keep listening to the albums and enjoying the good times they bring.


Scott said...

I'm sorry your experience was less than stellar. I've seen them a couple of times now and am always just thrilled. Such amazing energy and stage presence.

I always say if you aren't at least bopping around in your chair at a Family Band show, you may just be dead.


Russ/rfduck said...

Oh, I was bopping to some of the stuff. You have to remember that I had to sit through a whole HOUR of repetitive DJ stuff before Robert and the band came out. That didn't help my bopping mood.