Another open-air, amphitheater show for the pup’s in a row! This time, the pups headed north to Bellvue near Fort Collins, 90 miles away from the previous show in Morrison to the Mishawaka Amphitheater. Unlike Red Rocks, this stage was quite small and a little cramped. The horns for instance were angled slightly to make the most of the space. The show experienced some rain halfway through the set; this actually added a nice soundscape! The setlist they played was extremely varied and diverse and they managed to squeeze 11 songs into the hour and a half. They played old favorites like Whitecap and Thing of Gold as well as some We Like it Here, Culcha Vulcha and Immigrance tunes. Of all the shows the pups played in 2019, this would go down as being one of the funkiest! This was a seriously good show. Fans of Bobby Sparks would love this one as he gets featured heavily.
Beep Box – This one starts off with some acoustic guitar… but it wasn’t anyone on stage. Someone in the audience brought along a guitar! No need to fret, they didn’t play over the band at any point during the show. The actual song starts with a slightly more staccato Moog bassline from Mike but he starts to sustain the notes pretty soon after. Justin and Zach play some delicate and haunting accompaniment on Rhodes and violin with some high pitched chords and textural sounds. Things simmer along being propelled by JT’s sensitive drumming. Having a sax and a flute together is really nice to hear and adds a nice fullness to the sound. Marcelo adds the icing sugar like usual; metaphorically speaking. Even with this super gentle and quiet dynamic, JT manages to make it super funky. The interlude section sees the horns + violin and percussion/drum section play alone like usual before the huge ‘drop.’ Mike adds some really heavy sounding Moog bass and Justin’s Prophet 6 synth sound is super aggressive sounding. Mark adds some funky comping based around the bassline and Bobby adds some melodies on the MiniMoog. Maz takes a melodic and adventurous solo on the trumpet. The whole band gets adventurous actually. Bobby continues to find melodies to accompany Maz and Justin’s reharmonization skills on the Rhodes gets a showcase. An amazing version of Beep Box to start off the show.
Chrysalis – This version is insanely funky the whole way through. JT starts the groove off at a slightly slower tempo and Bobby follows with a cleaner clavinet sound than usual. Mark and Justin double each other with the melody. Mike uses the octaver heavily in the melody. The B section is really lush with a superb blend of organ, Rhodes and Mark’s guitar arpeggios. Bob takes the solo on tenor on top of a very serene solo section thanks to the horn harmonies and Justin’s Rhodes comping. Mike and JT get into some serious grooves. Bob plays some incredible lines with such clarity and precision and uses the full range of the saxophone. The final B section gets some reharmonization from Justin with lots of Maj7b5 chords. Mike’s bassline is more playful and busy than usual. The outro gets special treatment from Bobby on the clav and it gets super funky. All around a very funky but short version of this tune.
Semente – Marcelo starts this off energetically with some amazing virtuosity and an incredibly steady groove. He makes the most of the timbales. He keeps it short and sweet. This version has a more staccato and choppy sounding groove to normal. The extra horns and Zach on violin help to bring out the extra harmonies from the studio version of this song. Bobby and Justin play harmonic and rhythmic unison with each other for the most part. Towards the quiet, breakdown section, Justin plays some nice high-pitched improvised lines on the Rhodes. He switches to the Prophet just before the solo section and uses a very subdued sound. Zach Brock takes the solo here and plays with a fairly acoustic sound but with a subtle delay. He showcases his amazing technical prowess and plays some impressive lines. Towards the end, he uses the very top-end of the violin’s register and he gets into really fast sextuplets. Bobby starts sustaining the chords on the organ and JT thickens his groove. Mike plays a busier bassline than usual too. The final melody gets lots of playful basslines from Mike and Marcelo plays some intricate percussion rhythms in between the spaces in melody. The outro gets some bass harmonics from Mike, some swung, double stop lines from Justin on the Rhodes and some spooky textures from Zach and Bobby. Marcelo’s percussion work shines again. Mike says hello and says that this is their first time at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre. He praises the scenery of the place. He says it’s a nice change to wake up in the morning and not have to look at the ‘back of a budget motel.’
Bigly Strictness – The set continues with some Immigrance tunes. This one starts off with Mike’s awesome sub-octave bass sound, Mark’s sustained notes with the fuzz and JT’s simple groove. The sax melody has a cool blend between Bob’s acoustic sax sound and Chris’ high octave sound. Bobby has a short solo with the overdriven Castlebar clavinet. He presents his chops and tasty bluesy lines. He switches the organ just before the next section. Maz takes the solo with the gated fuzz he used on the original recording. He plays lots of really long notes and a mix of dissonant phrases and more typical pentatonic lines. The outro section gets some textural guitar playing from Mark with the auto-wah and fuzz. Justin switches from Rhodes to the synth and sets up an aggressive sound. The section builds dramatically underneath a sax solo from Chris. He plays lots of bluesy lines and uses the full range of the instrument. When the melody returns, Bobby uses both hands; one on the organ and the other on the Mellotron for a hugely powerful sound. Justin sticks with the Rhodes and plays some high-pitched arpeggios with his right hand. JT’s tom-tom drum groove and Marcelo’s conga playing closes this climatic version of ‘Bigly’.
Embossed – Marcelo and JT set this up at a slightly slower tempo than usual, but it’s pretty similar to the album version tempo-wise. Mark creeps in with the Ebow slide melody with lots of overdriven and swelled notes. At the end of the melody, he slides the full way up the neck. The horns emerge with their harmonies and the tune begins to grow. Bobby plays lots of rhythmic, melodic motifs on the Moog. In the B section, Mark turns on the phaser with his one-note line which adds a nice new texture. The horns improvise slightly towards the end of their melody. Mark shreds through the solo with lots of fuzz, reverb and delay. This is the first Embossed I’ve reviewed with Mark on guitar, and his approach is drastically different to McQueen’s and Lanzetti’s too for that matter. He focuses more on melody and chooses a much less in-your-face sound and doesn’t go as weird harmonically. He of course still shreds. It’s refreshing to hear another take on the solo section. Things fade out like normal and Bobby’s funky clavinet playing gets featured.
Thing of Gold – This version of Thing of Gold starts off sounding very different largely thanks to JT’s drum groove which is heavily swung. Mark joins in with some swinging accompaniment. Bobby adds some Moog bass and Justin adds lots of chromaticism with his Rhodes riff and adds some delicate little arpeggios with his right hand. The chorus melody is played very behind-the-beat by Bobby on the MiniMoog. It’s a little under-pitched probably due to the analogue components and the changing weather. He adds lots of expressive volume swells. Things continue similarly to the original version until the solo section… Mike and Justin add a huge sounding bassline and JT simplifies the groove. Bobby’s clavinet comping is showcased heavily here and so is Mark’s funky guitar playing. Bob takes a solo here and plays some truly remarkable phrases. The band drops out temporarily and Justin’s reharmonized Rhodes chords accompany Bob’s solo. All of Bob’s solos are so clean and crisp. Bobby switches over to the organ for the return to the melody which helps propel the section into his Moog solo. His Moog melody is full of volume swells and lots of pitch bends. The harmonic accompaniment sounds thinner than usual with just Justin playing the chords. JT changes his groove to incorporate a subtle ride cymbal pattern. Bobby plays his solo under this quieter section but still manages to give it as much energy as he can. He uses heaps of pitch bending and plays lots of syncopated lines. Things fade into a two-handed solo from Bobby on organ and Moog. He reharmonizes a melody on the Moog with the Organ and gets very experimental. This is one of my favorite solo’s from him as it perfectly shows off his deep harmonic understanding. At the very end, he turns his Moog into an 8-bit Arcade Machine. This was a very fun solo from Bobby.
Whitecap – Things segue immediately into Whitecap after Bobby finishes the last chord. Mike starts off with some bass chords, and Justin follows with a very string-like synth sound on the Prophet. JT gets into a very funky 2 and 4 groove early on for something different. Mark creeps in with the slide melody and Justin incorporates some high pitched arpeggio’s on the Rhodes with his spare hand. The main melody features a very powerful horn and keyboard section. Mark adds some arpeggios and Bobby harmonizes with the melody on the Moog in the chorus section. Mike turns on the octaver for the 2nd time through the head and the rest of the groove gets cooking. JT and Mike stray away from the main groove slightly with lots of improvisation around the groove. Mark uses a ton of vibrato with his melody just before the breakdown section. The breakdown section gets some beautiful Rhodes playing from Justin who reharmonizes everything! Bobby adds a nice rhythmic motif on the Moog which blends in with Mike’s bass harmonics nicely. Mark adds some nice Allan Holdsworth or Jeff Beck style riffs in the background. JT’s groove is more energetic than usual. The horn soli is swinging! Bobby uses lots of the clavinet in the background hinting at what he may or not do later on in the tune. He did it! Bobby went super funky in the interlude section. Justin takes a quick solo on the Rhodes here for something different. Mark adds some really funky, guitar-basslines and JT picks it up even more. The second breakdown is much calmer than the first. JT adds some metallic textures with the cymbals underneath Justin’s smooth Rhodes playing and the legato horn melody. The rest of the band rejoins and the groove continues. Maz takes a very lyrical and rhythmic solo on the flugelhorn. Justin adds some single note drones on the Prophet 6 instead of his usual block harmony comping. He adds some Rhodes later on when the other horns play their rhythmic stabs. Maz continues the lyricism. The tune ends like normal but funkier thanks to Bobby’s clav playing. The last chord is held for ages.
Palermo – Mike asks the audience for some participation in a clapping rhythm, but it’s not Xavi. Instead, the Bellvue audience has to complete ‘Snarky Puppy clapping hard mode’ with Marcelo’s gorgeous tune Palermo. Bobby starts this off on the organ and showcases the instruments’ many textures. Marcelo joins in with the Bombo Legeuro with the polyrhythmic groove and Justin adds some arpeggios on the Rhodes. When the main section begins, Mike switches on the octaver and it gets real funky. Maz’s flugelhorn melody is accompanied by Justin on the Rhodes with some very tasteful chords. The main groove emerges again and Bobby adds some undulating organ comping. The 2nd time through the melody has a completely different groove. JT plays in 3/4 or 6/8 with Marcelo instead of in 4 with Mike. Mike’s bassline here is very playful and Chris switches onto the soprano sax. The song enters a breakdown section and the Audience gets some time alone with Justin and Marcelo. The solo section has some very aggressive sounding comping from Bobby on the clav. Things simmer down further and Mike plays the bassline solo with his octave pedal. The melody returns and Bullock solo’s over it. He takes the rest of the solo too on top of the very polyrhythmic groove. He uses the full range of the soprano sax and plays lots of fast, glissando-like lines with a Dorian sound. Things simmer down further after Chris’ solo where Maz plays the flugelhorn melody once again but just with Marcelo. Justin joins in later with some smooth Rhodes chords. Bobby plays the outro melody alone on the organ rather than having Mark play it with the slide. Mark does join him later on though. The outro gets a nice b7 major to 1 minor progression from Justin on the Rhodes with him also playing the main arpeggio with his spare hand. Bobby adds his own arpeggiated motif on the organ just before the band completely fades into nothing for Marcelo’s solo. Marcelo continues his solo with support from the crowd’s clapping. He uses the timbales more than Bombo Leguero for something different. He finishes on that distinctive rhythm from earlier on to finish. A very nice version of Palermo.
Chonks – The funky trend is continued with the favorite from Immigrance. Bobby’s aggressive sounding clavinet playing is heard in such clarity in this mix and it contrasts so well with Justin’s smooth Rhodes playing. Zach plays the melody on violin through a bunch of fancy effects to emulate the sound of Shaun’s talkbox as best he can. The bigger horn section makes a huge difference with this song and it frees up Justin so he can stick to the keys. Justin takes the first solo on the Prophet with a highly resonant and square sound. His lines flow together so well here. The breakdown gets lots of ‘1 and 3’ accents from Bobby on the clavinet rather than just hitting that strong beat 1. Justin dials up a searing synth sound to double Bobby’s organ chords and his own Rhodes chords. Things continue on as normal, but Mark adds some really tasty comping and some nice improvised melodies to the melody. The final breakdown before the solo section gets heaps of synth and a massive clav and bass sound. Justin emulates the Mellotron sound as best as he can with the Prophet which gives the section so much intensity. Bobby takes the solo with a stripped-down rhythm section of just Mike, Mark, JT and Marcelo. He plays lots of flowing lines with a ton of pitch bends like usual but the band drops out much earlier than usual this time. JT and Bobby go nuts here until it’s only Bobby going nuts. Bobby’s time alone showcases his brilliance and madness as one of the coolest musicians in the world. He plays a really cool chromatic, ascending bassline before the end. The song finishes with Justin’s washy synth sound.
Shofukan – This was the first Snarky tune I ever heard so it’s always special to hear it in a setlist. Mark sets this one up with more dynamic variation than usual. When the horns enter there’s no harmonic accompaniment like normal. Justin must have removed himself from the keyboard chair for this tune. This version has a larger focus on the percussion as the mid-range frequencies are less present which creates significantly more space for the rest of the band. Bobby’s plays some really amazing comping here with the clav and the wah. The breakdown section with Mark’s distorted melody is super high energy thanks to the addition of Mike’s percussive bass playing with the wah and Bobby’s distorted clavinet basslines. The heat is reduced significantly with the solo section and Justin plays a very sensitive and melodic trumpet solo. Bobby’s organ comping is so amazing here and he matches Justin’s arc perfectly. Justin plays lots of detached semiquaver lines and some very angular phrases with huge leaps. He explores his upper register to the fullest extent while still keeping a very smooth and mellow tone. The outro section gets lots of heavy clavinet playing from Bobby who doubled Mike’s famous bassline. Mark joins in with the overdriven guitar arpeggios and the large horn section follows like usual. JT and Marcelo get some alone time with the audience and their singing. The band reprises and the funk continues. The extra saxophone makes the lower harmonies much more present. The last is held thanks to Mark. Mike introduces the band and thanks Chris Bullock’s band ‘BOOMTOWN’ for opening the show.
Sleeper – Justin’s Rhodes chords start this one off like usual. He uses an abundance of delay and reverb to help create that washy sound. Bobby plays the melody on clavinet for a change and uses a mix of wah and overdrive. He plays around with the melody significantly and adds lots of bluesy licks. When the rest of the band kick in, Mike’s Moog bass takes becomes the focal point of the mix. With the unison horns and guitar melody, Mark turns on the phaser which brings out his articulation much more. The band simmers down into the section with just Justin and Bobby. Bobby continues his blues-inspired lines with lots of #6’s and major 3rds giving it a Mixolydian tonality. Justin reharmonizes to account for this. When the band returns Bobby sticks more closely to the original tonality of the song, but he also gets into a really awesome, slowly paced chromatic line which he repeats many times. He completely dismantles the solo section and shreds it to pieces by the end! JT and Mike assist him by playing a simple, crotchet based groove but with so much intensity. At this moment JT was absolutely whacking the living daylights out of the cymbals! The last chord is sustained and Bobby continues the fun with a slowly fading, overdriven chord. A very fun, but short version of Sleeper to close this amazing show. Most of the songs in this set were played shorter than usual so they could squeeze in a larger number of tunes.
- Bob Reynolds – Tenor Saxophone
- Chris Bullock – Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute
- Mike ‘Maz’ Maher – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
- Justin Stanton – Trumpet, Keyboard, Rhodes, Prophet 6
- Michael League – Bass, Moog Bass
- Mark Lettieri – Guitar
- Zach Brock – Violin
- Bobby Sparks – Organ, Moog, Clavinet, Mellotron
- Marcelo Woloski – Percussion
- Jason ‘JT’ Thomas – Drums
- Matt Recchia – Engineering and Sound (Front of house)
- Michael Harrison – Monitors
- Nic Hard – Mixing
About the Reviewer
Howdy readers. I’m Simon. Since 2016 I’ve slowly become enveloped in the world of Snarky Puppy. My obsession started a few minutes into the first song they played at the Melbourne 2017 show (Flood); my first live Snarky experience. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours listening to their albums, live shows and various interviews/articles with/on the band.
What really stuck with me after seeing them perform live was just how powerful – sonically – a large band can be when everything is orchestrated in such a way, especially with three keyboardists on stage. What also surprised me was just how much fun everyone appeared to be having on stage; I never ever expected so much jamming!
On FunkCity.net, I will primarily be writing reviews of my vast and growing Live Snarky and nugs.net album collection in hopes that my writing will inspire some purchases along the way. All of the money spent on Livesnarky.com or nugs.net will go directly to Snarky Puppy’s members, which will in turn support them while they can continue to do what they do best. And… hopefully fund Family Dinner Volume 3.