music / sacramento / Shows

Sliding Away Through The Funky Night

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The night of the show was cold and windy like so many this time of the year, but the Mondavi Center was warm, bright and filled with people. As with many shows I’ve been to there, the range of the guest’s attire was startling, from women in power suits and sparkling patterned jackets to men in jogging clothes or business suits. Regardless of what they were wearing, it was obvious that the audience was excited to see The Slide Brothers perform. Jackson Hall, where they were to play, filled up quickly with people sidling into their seats and looking expectantly at the instruments that sat still and lifeless on the stage.

When the lights dimmed, the hall held its breath for a moment before letting it out in a roar as the musicians came on stage. The band acknowledged the crowd then turned to their instruments and started something between tuning and jam session. It was like liquid sound, filling the space and transfixing the audience. Then, they started to play.  Listening to the Slide Brothers perform is like swimming in a sea of gospel funk. The music goes on and on with little pause, the songs flowing one into the other, distinct but part of one whole performance.

The Slide Brothers are huge figures in sacred steel, a genre that originated in the 1930’s with the introduction of pedal steel guitars into church services. Now called the slide guitar, it’s popular in churches but was rarely heard outside of them. Then Robert Randolph came along, presenter of the Slide Brothers and great promoter sacred steel. A successful slide guitarist himself, he helped the band tour the country and put out their first album, released just last week.

The band consists of Calvin Cooke, a slide guitarist whose throaty voice makes a lovely contrast with Aubrey Ghent, another slide guitarist whose voice is so deep it seems to come from the Earth itself. Next is Darick Campbell a drummer with one of the most expressive faces I have ever seen. The final member is Chuck Campbell who wasn’t at the show, instead Robert Randolph filled in for him rather enthusiastically, commandeering lots of long solos. There was one more musician on that stage, a young bassist whose name I didn’t catch and couldn’t find but who was quite talented and danced like a stop motion bobble head.

The performance was exciting and powerful, at one point Cooke had the entire audience standing, waving their arms, dancing and singing, “I can wave my hands”. Before that there was a brave middle-aged man in a sweatshirt and baseball cap who stood up in the front row and danced by himself for five minutes doing a slow jam version of the Running Man which I have dubbed the Walking Man. During the encore most of the first five rows were dancing. If you enjoy anything even remotely funky you will like the Slide Brothers.

To learn more about The Slide Brothers visit them at www.slidebrothers.com

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