On a snowy Thursday night in St. Paul, Lettuce brought their “Beyond The Clouds” tour to the Palace Theatre and demonstrated why they are the reining heavy weight champs of the current funk scene. The band has a tribute to Miles Davis out, and their Mt. Crushmore release is in heavy rotation on satellite radio. New Orleans natives Galactic are also sharing the bill on this leg of the tour.
Lettuce came on right around 8, and the Palace was immediately transformed into a basement funk party. With Jesus Coomes laying down a nasty base line, complete strangers were body bumping as if the music had taken over control of their protoplasm. Coomes commands the stage like a front man, and while doesn’t sing , he did speak to the crowd and yell a couple of “Yeah’s”. Black lights and fog helped to accentuate the feeling that you had gained access to an exclusive underground club. Guitarist Shmeeans Smirnoff’s creamy licks reverbed off of the old cement walls of the Palace with a jazzy fluidity and FLAC level clarity out of the best sound system in the Twin Cities.
The Shady Horns, lead by Ryan Zoidis on sax, really take the band the next level, with spot on fills and runs that add depth and funk-nasty goodness to the songs. The band is contemporary funk and the horns add the authentic nod to 70’s funk band influences. Hip hop influences are evident too, in the groove laid down by drummer Adam Dietch, and I was reminded of older A Tribe Called Quest beats.
With the smell of “Lettuce” still permeating the air, Galactic hit the stage around 10. With seminal member Stanton Moore behind the drum kit driving the beat, the horns kicked in to create a very New Orleans brass band feel with a funky bend. Founding member Ben Ellman did his usual double duty on sax and harmonica. One of the bands newer additions is vocalist Erica Falls, and her vocals on “Heart of Steel” was the highlight of the set.
The Lettuce set on Thursday night was tight, their 20 plus years of playing together cementing them a place at the top of the list of the great funk bands of our time.