This concert is entertaining not only because of the music, but also the banter! Michael League makes some references to the hit TV series Game of Thrones throughout the night (which was being broadcast nationwide at the same time as this concert), and the keyboardists get caught up in some trash-talking about barbeque skills. You can tell that the band is relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere of the venue. Whenever that happens, it revs up both the crowd and the band…which makes for an unforgettable show! My recording of this show has some slight mixing issues on a few songs, but that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying it any less. (Side note: whenever I see Jamison Ross as the featured drummer, I know that many of the tunes will cruise along a bit more briskly than usual! But that adds to the fun, doesn’t it?)
Flood – Chris McQueen opens the evening with a short and sweet guitar solo. This sparse arrangement of “Flood” still maintains a driving beat, thanks to the interplay between Michael League and Jamison Ross. Justin Stanton takes a wild solo on his synthesizer before Jamison and Nate Werth engage in a percussive conversation.
While We’re Young – After the head, Bobby Sparks goes off on his Castlebar clavinet. The solo starts out mellow but gradually builds.
Whitecap – One of the rarest tunes to hear in a Snarky Puppy show (well, maybe not as rare as “34 Klezma” or “Celebrity”), but it comes out tonight! Chris Bullock takes a VERY quick sax solo – only one minute & seven seconds – but still manages to pack in lots of rapid-fire phrases. Unfortunately, this is one of the tunes with audio mixing issues…the sax solo is quite low in the mix.
Bigly Strictness – Three succinct but BOLD solos. Bobby kicks things off on the clavinet, and then Maz follows on the “Hendrix trumpet” (which has a special pickup for the mouthpiece, giving the trumpet a distorted sound – an amazing effect if I do say so myself). Shaun Martin ends with a brilliant Moog solo, which is sadly also low in the mix.
Bad Kids to the Back – After the main verse and chorus, Chris blows on soprano sax! Then Jamison steps up to bat and knocks it out of the park.
Gemini – After some hilarious barbeque banter, Snarky Puppy plays Justin’s classic tune from Culcha Vulcha. Maz, Michael, and Jamison provide the vocal melody along with Chris McQueen on slide guitar. Nate Werth adds some very tasty touches with his tambourines and shakers. After some small talk between Jamison’s vocal, Maz’s trumpet and Chris Bullock’s flute…we get a superb guitar solo from Chris McQueen.
Chonks – After the opening talkbox-clav statement, the horns plunge right in and it’s a party! Shaun and Bobby fire up the crowd with some incredible solos on their keyboards.
Xavi – A fantastic rendition, with the crowd confidently clapping the 4-over-3 polyrhythm. Both Chrises get to solo: McQueen makes the guitar sing, and Bullock gets more time to flex than he did on “Whitecap.” Bobby adds some freaky clavinet sounds in the middle vamp, too. Next, the audience claps the polyrhythm and Justin tickles the ivories. After the outro and finale, Michael introduces the band and bids the fans goodnight.
Lingus (Encore) – Just before the encore, Shaun hypes up the crowd (“Oh, y’all wanna party, St. Louis? Turn this shit up!”), and they belt out the opening horn melody with true passion. After Bullock and Maz trade fours, Shaun takes his time on the Moog. The first minute is a little low in the mix but from what I hear it’s great as usual. Then it gets turned up and all’s right with the world. Shaun really cranks it into overdrive as the band races to the finish line. (Perhaps they wanted to get back to the tour bus quickly so that they could catch up on Game of Thrones.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: this is a fun show! Despite missing an episode of Game of Thrones, the band and the fans are loose, amped up, and ready to boogie. Bobby and Shaun’s friendly pleasantries really make this show “[feel] like a block party,” in Michael’s words. My selected standout tracks from this show would be “Flood,” “Whitecap,” “Chonks,” and “Xavi.”
Michael League (bass, krakebs, & vocals)
Chris Bullock (tenor sax, soprano sax, & flute)
Mike “Maz” Maher (trumpet, flugelhorn, & vocals)
Justin Stanton (keyboards & trumpet)
Chris McQueen (electric guitar)
Bobby Sparks (keyboards)
Shaun Martin (keyboards)
Nate Werth (percussion)
Jamison Ross (drums & vocals)
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.