You never know what you’re going to get with a Snarky Puppy show other than one of the best live music shows of your life and this Friday night in Philly was no exception.  First it was a unique and special lineup with Marcelo and Larnell, after a U.S. hiatus, on percussion, Bobby and Shaun on keys (boding well for things to come), and Mark on guitar.  The near sell out crowd was the usual mix of of the usual Pupophiles and new fans who are anxious to see their first performance and it was a helluva way to get initiated! You can purchase the fully mixed sound from the show here – LiveSnarky.com.

The show started with a new live favorite, Beep Box, which eased everyone into the groove. Michael starts as usual on the bass keys with Chris coming in with the haunting flute line.  The bass drop at the 2:30 mark revved up the crowd for the soaring Maz trumpet solo drawing the song to a close.

Next, up was GØ which, of course, stepped of the pace from the get go with its signature Michael bass line and horn riff.  Mark kicked in with a sweet, spacey solo that got everyone juiced for more. Then, Bobby took his first solo of the night and really took us on a swirling adventure that brought a rise out of the crowd. Finally, Justin took a a nice turn on keys to close out the song.

After a rare missed signal and a fun exchange between Mark and Michael,  Mark led off Flood with a nice intro to start the flow. Justin too the first solo on keys with a bright electric piano segued into two-handed piano-Moog combo. Of course the song closed out with the rousing and haunting guitar-horn driven melody.

Then, Michael introduced all the fans to the unique beat and clapping pattern of Palermo, Marcelo’s wonderfully written piece, and the audience proved up to the task rhythmically.  Bobby took the lead on the section with the audience clapping and brought in some extreme funky keys to accompany Chris’ nice sax solo. Maz’s echoing trumpet sounded like a siren call off a mountaintop.  Of course, it had to close with an extended Marcelo solo accompanied by audience hand claps.

Then, we got super stoked with one of my personal live favorites, White Cap which opened with Mark slowly bending some of the notes on the signature intro before the horns jumped in. While the horns vamped in the middle, Michael and Mark interjected with some percussive, spacey bass + guitar work. Shaun took the solo (which often is held down by a horn on this tune) and riffed into some “Flashlight” (Parliament) in the middle. His speed and originality always bring smiles to the fans with meandering flights of fancy.

Next up, the Brazilian inspired Tio Macaco, with the always enjoyable flute intro by Chris Bullock.  Shaun conducted the audience in the appropriate timing for the “hey…hey” chants. Chris again hit with an outstanding flute solo, something I personally would like to see more of with Snarky Puppy. The smooth transition to a Maz solo appeared effortless and Justin jumped in on trumpet to take over before all three got back together to hit the chorus. Finally, Marcelo and Larnell closed out with an extensive and  explosive percussion duel that amazed all in attendance.

Then, honestly the event of the night, and for me the great white whale I’ve been tracking for the last two years, Big Ugly!  It was the first time I’ve ever seen it live and man, was it worth it.   This tune starts out like a piano-lounge tune and transitions to a segment that sounds like it’s straight out of a James Bond movie. The intro segment with Michael on key bass, and the horns and guitar work is pure gold. Maz took the trumpet solo with good effects. Bobby’s staccato two handed key part was cracking up the band, including Michael, and it was apparent they were having a great time with it.  The multi-keyboard final section make this one of the most uplifting Snarky Puppy tunes.  Bobby’s funkiness was dripping out on the stage as he took us on a journey. Michael and Shaun had to fan him to cool him off.  The crowd dug it massively and really was fortunate to see this masterpiece performed live.  The consensus buzz after the show was that this was a highlight of the night.

But wait, the encore of Quarter Master led off with a bluesy Mark intro.  Shaun kicked in with a vocoder accompaniment.  Bobby and Shaun took turns on what sounded like a blend of P-funk and New Orleans jazz. The horns starting pulsing sounding like the JBs. The song “ended” at the 13-minute mark after the full New Orleans horn cacophony with the band unplugging but Shaun and the crowd weren’t ready to go.  Shaun hit the keys with gospel intro and the team was ready to launch again! This segued into into Shout with Bobby and Shaun taking us down the road and Shaun exhorting the crowd to keep going – “Don’t start none, there won’t be none!”  The crowd jumped in on cue with “hey, ay, ay, ay” and we were off to the races firing on all cylinders.  It was a fitting sendoff for a crowd that devoured every note and every moment of this fantastic show.

Lineup:

Michael League – bass, bass keys, claps
Justin Stanton – keys, trumpet
Mike “Maz” Maher – trumpet, flugelhorn
Chris Bullock- tenor sax, flute
Marcelo Woloski – percussion
Larnell Lewis – drums
Mark Lettieri – guitar
Bobby Ray Sparks – keys
Shaun Martin – keys

Set List:

  1. Beep Box
  2. Flood
  3. Palermo
  4. White Cap
  5. Tio Macaco
  6. Big Ugly
  7. Quarter Master (Encore > Shout)