As a new contributor to FunkCity.net, I eagerly look forward to writing reviews of Snarky Puppy concerts from 2019. I plan to release reviews on the 2-year anniversary of the show I’m writing about. We’ll kick things off with the final show of the Pacific leg of the Immigrance tour. After traveling to Japan and New Zealand, Snarky Puppy arrived in Australia for a handful of concerts at the Byron Bay Blues Fest, the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, and Melbourne’s Forum. During this show, Michael League praised the local music scene and gave a shout-out to Perrin Moss of Hiatus Kaiyote. There were several memorable solos, including a rare percussion break in “Xavi.” Finally, “Shofukan” stretched to nearly fifteen minutes in length! A fun show, with many tunes played at a brisk pace. There are two links for archived video and audio at the end of this review.
Even Us – Bob Lanzetti opens the set with sparse, spacey guitar chords. Shaun and Chris enter on piano and tenor sax. Then Justin Stanton takes his time on trumpet over the solo vamp. Well…I think it’s Justin, but I’m not totally sure based on the recording.
Tarova – the band plays the Metropole Orkest arrangement which premiered in 2018 at the North Sea Jazz Festival. After Bobby and Shaun have a brief but funky organ-and-Moog conversation, the band goes full-steam ahead. Maz solos with a growling wah-wah effect on trumpet and is soon left alone with Jamison.
Flood – Bob plays a brooding solo before segueing into this Snarky Puppy classic. This arrangement starts out delicately, but it eventually picks up speed. Bob delivers a full-fledged shredding spectacle. Jamison and Keita drum up a storm before the coda. The crowd goes ballistic, and Michael welcomes everyone to the show.
Chonks – this one is all Shaun and Bobby! First, Shaun does some low-pitched runs and builds up to a VERY long high note on his talkbox. To top it off, he quotes Parliament’s “Flashlight.” During the outro, Bobby takes charge, switching from Hammond B-3 organ to Mini-Moog with astounding ease and dexterity.
Bad Kids to the Back – a VERY uptempo version, driven by Jamison’s backbeat! Chris gets the audience involved with his sax solo, which is literally full of highs and lows!
Embossed – Michael mentions that this tune is not included on the Immigrance album, but rather it is a special bonus track. Keita’s hand drums really cut through on this mix! Same for the synths. Bob cooks up a gritty, feedback-laden guitar solo.
Thing of Gold – after the opening Rhodes chords and tenor sax melody, Shaun gets the crowd to sing. Maz solos on flugelhorn. Then Shaun makes the Moog sing and does a free-form solo after the last chord. (A fan video shows Shaun getting a video call from his family just as “Thing of Gold” ends. Shaun says, “That’s my son,” and his son’s face appears on the phone screen. As Shaun solos, Bobby holds Shaun’s phone up so that the Martins get a close-up view.)
Xavi – a killer rendition lasting thirteen minutes! Bobby takes a great organ solo, Chris goes hard on tenor sax, and even Keita gets a conga spotlight! Justin rounds things out with a sweet Fender Rhodes solo, and drum tech Mason Davis joins Michael on krakebs to play the 4-over-3 polyrhythm.
Lingus – Snarky Puppy returns for its first encore. After Chris and Maz trade fours, Shaun goes mental on his keyboards. A pretty standard version of Lingus.
Shofukan – the second encore! I’m not sure if Maz or Justin is soloing on trumpet, but it’s nice either way. Propelled by Bob’s guitar arpeggios and the Moog bass, the crowd sings along with the final horn chorus. But Shaun doesn’t want to leave, so he leads a chant of “Happy birthday, Mike!” Bobby and Jamison establish a syncopated funk groove, and from what I hear, Michael takes a bass solo! The horn section even quotes “Quartermaster” from the GroundUP album…wow! After a reprise of “Shofukan,” the ecstatic Melbournian crowd shows its appreciation as Michael says goodnight.
FINAL THOUGHTS: firstly, what an amazing setlist! A nice mix of new songs and old chestnuts. Secondly, this show has one of my favorite live versions of “Xavi” because of the energetic tempo, the soloists (nice choice to have Keita play here – why didn’t he do this more often?), and the very tight ending. Finally, this “Shofukan” is absolutely incredible and should be preserved in the Library of Congress. My selected standout tracks from this show would be “Flood,” “Chonks,” “Bad Kids to the Back,” “Xavi,” and “Shofukan.”
⇩ ⇩ Full Audio Recording ⇩ ⇩
Michael League (bass & krakebs)
Chris Bullock (tenor sax & flute)
Mike “Maz” Maher (trumpet & flugelhorn)
Justin Stanton (keyboards & trumpet)
Bob Lanzetti (electric guitar)
Bobby Sparks (keyboards)
Shaun Martin (keyboards)
Keita Ogawa (percussion)
Jamison Ross (drums)
About the Reviewer
Hi! I’m Doug, and I really love Snarky Puppy. I first learned about this supergroup in 2014 when some college friends introduced me to their albums Groundup, Family Dinner Volume 1 and We Like It Here. I was amazed by the caliber of talent and how all the parts (melody, harmony, rhythm, and accompaniment) came together seamlessly.
Then on July 31, 2015 my family and I went to the Newport Jazz Festival. Snarky Puppy was one of the featured artists along with Christian McBride, Chris Botti, Arturo Sandoval, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Jon Faddis, Lucky Peterson, Kneebody, and Jon Batiste & Stay Human. Over the course of ninety minutes, Snarky Puppy played a lot of material from WLIH, including the ultra-popular “Lingus.”
I was absolutely awestruck by the infectious grooves, the wild jazz harmonies, and the mind-blowing solos that each band member took. That performance changed my life. Although it is still the only Snarky Puppy concert I have attended, it certainly won’t be my last. I hope to see them perform in the United States very soon, once things start to open up in greater capacity after COVID-19.