PHOTOS: Bowlive Night 3 (Soulive w/ Karl D., Big Sam, Questlove, & Rahzel) @ Brooklyn Bowl 3/1/12

Last night, I found myself back at Brooklyn Bowl, and since it’s the first week of March, that can mean only one thing: Bowlive! Soulive’s annual residency at Brooklyn Bowl — now in its third year — kicked off this week with some great shows all around. Thanks to a photo pass hook-up from our friends at Calabro Music, I joined a packed house at the Bowl to watch the band tear through soul and funk classics with guest appearances by Karl Denson, Big Sam, Queslove and Rahzel, along with the normal cast of characters from the Royal Family. Read on for my short review and full photo gallery…

Last night’s guests provided a really nice mix for the Soulive to cover a lot of territory. They ripped through plenty of their patented jazz-funk, dropped a killer instrumental Beatles medley, and brought out the full slate of guests for some big-band JB’s style funk classics. At set-break, Rahzel busted out his solo beat-boxing routine to rile up an already-rowdy crowd with some silliness and lots of muffle beats and blips. Then, the Evans bros and Eric Krasno joined Rahzel for an opening vamp that seemed to be improvised on the spot (side note: I’d love to see the band do this kind of open-ended improv more often). At that point, the crowd was nicely amped for set two which featured Soulive’s now-standard instrumental Beatles medley, including covers of Lennon/McCartney classics like “Come Together,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”…clearly a crowd favorite. It was pretty amazing to hear 500+ people boisterously singing along to Eric Krasno’s melodic take on classic Beatles vocal lines, and it definitely provided a highlight of the night.

After that, they brought out Karl Denson and Big Sam on horns along with Questlove on drums for a big-band soul revue, hitting on classics like Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” This section of the show featured some rippin’ horn solos by Denson and Big Sam, soul-stirring vocals from Nigel Hall, and plenty of fun funk teases, including a quick take on Maceo Parker’s “Pass the Peas” and James Brown’s “Soul Power.” The teases and on-the-spot rhythmic change-ups felt totally natural and offered a nice glimpse into the sheer musicianship of all of the players on the stage.

With so much energy in the room, it really struck me that this was just one show out of ten that the band would be playing over the course of two weeks. But if they were pacing themselves, it definitely didn’t show. As the band left the stage, there were lots of smiles and hugs to go around and Alan Evans left us on a high note with a simple “See you tomorrow.”