This was one amazing show. Not only was the setlist outstanding but the overall energy seemed much higher than usual. The two saxophone players, Bob Reynolds and Chris Bullock played some truly epic solos in this show so other saxophone players should love this show. The pups played at the large Minglewood hall in the middle of Memphis which has both a bar section and the larger stage where the pup’s performed. The room was quite boomy acoustically but this didn’t stop the band from tearing up and Nic Hard from making the mix squeaky clean.
Embossed – The show begins energetically with Bill Laurance’s tune Embossed. Marcelo and JT start this one off like normal with Mark following with the Ebow and slide for the melody. This version gets pretty ambient early on with some very smooth horn harmonies and a subtle synth pad from Justin. Mike plays some chords over this section by tapping the body of the bass to get them to resonate without having to strum or pick them. The A section is pretty normal but Mark chooses a more overdriven sound than usual. The B section is very funky and heavy thanks to Justin rocking the synth bass. Bobby and Zach take on the melody with Moog and violin respectively with lots of distortion and pitch-bends from both of them. The final A section continues the ambient soundscape and Mike adds some very tasteful bass fills. Zach on violin joins the horns in harmony. The solo section is very funky thanks to Bobby on clavinet and Justin’s massive synth bass sound from before. Mark takes the solo here and shreds! He begins with some rhythmic chordal playing. He uses a ton of overdrive and distortion and plays a very tasty mix of minor pentatonic and some Phrygian dominant licks. The bassline makes lots of appearances in his solo. An amazing solo from Mark to start off the show. The horn Soli is accompanied by Bobby on the Clav and showcases his unbelievable groove. Mark, Mike and Justin drop out here for the first few measures. Towards the end of the song where the B section is played once again, Mark turns on the phaser with his single-note line and Justin adds some reharmonized chords on the Rhodes. A great start to this amazing show.
Coven – McQueen’s eerie and ambient tune follows starting with the usual horn intro. Mark adds some extra harmonies to the horn riff with the Ebow and Marcelo plays some decorative textures and rhythms with his percussion rig. JT sets up the main groove afterwards and then Mike comes in with an octave pedal for something different. I don’t think he meant to use it so he turned it off after a few notes; it sounded so cool though! He does change up the bassline quite a bit which is really awesome. The blend between the Harmon mute trumpet, double tenor saxophones and the Violin is really superb. The next A section is higher energy and funkier. Mike first plays the bassline up an octave and then plays a tasty chordal riff. The solo starts up and the song speeds up slightly. Mike adds a simple, but very funky bassline instead of laying out here. Justin and Mark play their arpeggiated riff without any harmonic accompaniment for the first part of the solo section. Maz takes the solo here and plays some beautiful lines with the flugelhorn and its incredibly smooth and mellow tone with a bunch of delay. He paces himself very well and incorporates lots of inside and outside phrases. JT picks up the groove and plays around with the time a little bit. At this point, Maz takes a long break in his solo before coming in with very fast lines. Bobby had been playing some very tasty melodies on the Moog in the background but he switched over to the organ just before the return to the melody. After this interlude section with its very lush soundscape, Justin takes a single-handed Rhodes solo whilst keeping a very lush Prophet 6 synth sound going. Mark and Bobby also play some ambient chords here and the texture thickens giving this section heaps of energy. Justin plays some very fast lines here and the tempo climbs a bit more before the fade out. Mark begins a beautiful segue into Flood.
Flood – Mark chooses a warm and crisp neck pickup tone here with some nice delay and reverb in the background and plays some bluesy chord progressions. He begins the riff at a medium-slow tempo and Marcelo comes in early with some Bongos. JT plays a very simple groove with lots of space using just the snare and bass drum. Justin plays some very delicate melodies on the Prophet that sits nicely over the top. Bobby doubles the horn melody to give it even more presence and Mike lays out until the distinct 4 note riff at the end of the 4 bar phrases. The groove picks up but is still quite sparse after the horns leave. JT changes the placement of clave rhythm here and Justin continues his synth melodies. Bobby gets funky with the organ. The B section is nice and lush with the ringing guitar line and some extremely smooth chords from Justin on the Prophet and the Rhodes. Mike has some fun with the bassline and uses the descending and intervallic horn melody as its basis. The return to the 7/8 section is funkier, but JT refrains from playing the groove strictly until the solo section. Mike turns on the Octave pedal and JT gets heavy-handed in the solo section. Bob takes a motivic solo on the tenor here. Bobby has some great interaction with Bob here and plays some counter melodies on the organ leaving lots of the chordal accompaniment for Mark. The groove is still quite messy and busy here which keeps things interesting. Justin joins in on the conversation with the Rhodes towards the end. After the mid-solo horn riff and breakdown, Bobby opens up with the organ and the groove finally reaches its peak. Bob leaves lots of space and decides to finish his solo early. Things segue calmly into the 5/4 section where JT takes a very tasteful solo and Bobby showcases his very subtle organ comping. The large horn section plus Zach on Violin makes the meandering melody really become the focal point it should always have. Justin switches to trumpet last minute with the Harmon mute to add another texture. He removes it just before the crescendo so it won’t get buried out under JT’s extreme energy and Bobby’s waling organ. JT goes mad after the crescendo and Zach harmonies with the horn melody. The F minor Vamp gets a more rhythmic bassline from Mike instead of the usual long notes. Bobby goes for a wobbly sound with the organ towards the end. The ‘drop’ as I like to call features a super funky bassline from Mike with the organ. JT’s groove is much simpler than usual and Bobby plays lots of staccato chords. After the half a bar break, Bobby comes back in louder than ever with one hand playing a brand new counter-melody on the Moog while still playing the chords with his spare hand. The groove continues to grow and then for the last 4 bars Mike plays a super busy and scratchy sounding bassline with his myriad of octave pedals. JT and Marcelo get some time alone and play lots of really heavy rhythms and grooves. JT in particular finds an amazing 4/4 groove to play over the 5/8 section. Mark comes back in and Bobby joins in with some rhythmic melodies on the Moog. Mike uses the palm of his hand to give his bass a ‘pat’ on the fretboard for some percussive sounds. The outro is high energy and features a very ‘club’ like bassline from Mike. Bobby and Mark both play the ‘lick’ here with lots of pitch-bending. It’s super groovy! The last chord is sustained for eternity. Mike says hey to Memphis and thanks Breastfist for opening.
Bigly Strictness – This one starts off with the classic club-like groove with the sub-octave bass from Mike and JT’s simple snare and bass drum groove. Mark uses a gated fuzz sound for this on with a tiny bit of auto-wah for some phase-shifting effects. Mike varies the bassline more than usual. The groove is strong with this one. Bullock comes in strong with the high-octave doubled sax melody. For the B section, Mark turns on a rotary speaker emulator pedal to give his arpeggio a very Sound Garden-Esque, wobbly tone. The horn section gets broken up into 2 sections with Maz playing the main melodies and Bob and Chris playing the counter melodies. This transitions into the first solo section where Bobby takes a super intense and high energy solo on the clavinet. This is only a short solo but he shreds and goes through a period of madness – in a good way that is! Maz takes the next solo and JT seriously picks up the groove. Maz uses the gated fuzz sound from the original recording which almost feedbacks. His lines are super clean and he emphasizes his wild and wacky tone with a bunch of long notes full of rich harmonic content. Bobby reharmonises the chords here on the Organ; it sounds a lot like the chord progression from the Booker T Jones song Green Onions by having the tonic chord major in the minor key overall. Things fade into the outro section which has a super climatic ending. Mark adds some nice single note volume swells with a searing lead tone highlighting the very pretty chord progression. Justin uses a very subtle synth sound over the top of Mike’s plectrum bassline. Justin switches over to the keyboard workstation and dials up an Acoustic Piano sound and Bobby takes over synth duties with the Mellotron. This gives this song a very different texture and soundscape. Zach takes the solo here and plays some ridiculous lines and moves freely between more consonant sounding lines and some bluesy and dominant licks. His sound is very overdriven and flanged and he explores the full range of the violin in this amazing solo. The very end of his solo sees him sliding from his highest note down to his lowest before the fade out.
Bad Kids to the Back – Justin’s tune picks things up. JT’s groove is so contagious here and Mike gets playful with the bassline with lots of slides on some of the notes. Mark chooses a bright and snappy telecaster-like tone for the melody and his awesome single-note comping. The horn section is extra tight in this version. The groove continues bubbling away with some great interaction from everyone on stage. Chris takes the solo on soprano sax here and kills it! He starts building up some chromatic motifs and a few nice bebop inspired licks. He uses the lower range of the instrument here and refrains from playing too loudly to conserve his energy. This is a very different sounding solo from him and it’s really exciting to listen to. Halfway through, Justin switches to the Prophet for some synth bass and the groove gets extremely funky. Chris starts shredding and plays lots of really high notes with some multiphonics. The interlude section is funky thanks to Justin’s Herbie Hancock-like staccato Rhodes playing. Zach and Mark handle the melody with a bunch of effects. After this begins JT’s drum solo and it gets insanely funky. JT starts swinging the beat and Mark immediately hops on this idea and starts playing some percussive single note riffs. Soon everyone in the rhythm section is swinging. Mark plays some nice disco bassline on the guitar and Justin uses a fat synth bass sound which really helps take the audience to that 80’s disco zone. JT gradually moves away from the swing feel and then goes double time and plays aggressively against the beat; Mark also joins in with some very fast rhythmic comping. The energy throughout this drum solo is just unreal! The ending is so climatic. The audience loved every minute of it. One of my favorite versions of ‘Bad Kids’ for sure.
While We’re Young – Mike accidentally leaves his octave pedal on… again, but he realizes quickly and goes back to the standard sound. Bobby mucks around with the melody on the Clavinet and the audience cheers loudly. Mark uses the slide from the start for this one instead of using the whammy like he did in Kansas City. The chorus section is lush. Mike’s bass tone seems more resonant in this mix than usual and the synth and organ are clearer. Just before the solo section, Justin uses one of the smoothest synth sounds you’ve ever heard and then fades away into nothing for Bobby’s solo. Mark adds some rhythmic, delay driven chordal riffs to Mike’s slightly changed bassline. Bobby starts with some very memorable lines with lots of overdrive and phaser. He plays heaps of double stops which when combined with the large amount of overdrive creates this ring modulator kind of sound. His chops are just so on point and every single one of his improvised melodies have some much energy and character. JT, Mike and Mark work together and come up with a new bassline and groove on the fly. It sounds a lot like Come Together by the Beatles. At this point, Bobby sort of gives up on his amazing melody making and rather just plays as many notes as he can in the shortest amount of time! He brings it back home however with some very tasteful licks. The B section gets some lovely chordal riffage from Mark before he switches over to the slide for the melody. Mike has some fun playing around with the bassline. Mark takes a quick slide solo over the outro between the horns. He fills up more space than usual and is overall playing more adventurous than usual which is awesome to hear. The last chord is held for ages. Mike introduces the crowd to some ‘particimapation’ as he so eloquently put.
Xavi – This time the crowd’s participation and clapping exercise was for Xavi rather than Palermo. As Mike says, Memphis will be ‘extra soulful.’ This one starts off at a groovy medium-fast tempo. JT like usual plays quite quietly for the first few sections to give this tune lots of breathing room dynamically speaking. After the flute melody and Mark’s twangy guitar break, Justin, Bobby and Mike all play the bassline and it gets real funky. The blend between the violin, Harmon muted trumpet, flute and tenor saxophone is just exquisite. The B section is ultra lush thanks to Justin, Bobby and Mark’s chords. Things settle down temporarily afterwards before the solo section. Maz takes a nice melodic and scalic solo based heavily around the minor pentatonic scale with the wah sound he is so famous for using. Mark uses a generous amount of slapback delay for the bassline which gives the accompaniment some snap. Maz starts shredding through the scale and then finds a note he likes and plays it over and over. He plays a ton of outside notes here too and instead of him being the only one playing them, Bobby reharmonizes the section with some organ chords using the notes from Maz’s solo – very, very cool. The next solo section is more energetic with the new bassline and Mark’s twangy chords. Zach takes a distorted and even more out there solo here. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of playing some truly bizarre notes! His amazing technique and sense of rhythm help him soar over this incredibly funky section. Towards the end, Mark switches from playing the chords to playing the bassline but extremely percussively. The funkiness this simple change creates is incredible – it completely reinvents the groove. After all of this, the crowd gets a few bars alone with Marcelo and JT. Mike and Chris bring the next section in on bass and soprano saxophone. Mike plays around with the bassline significantly here by playing some chords and just generally playing more notes. He plucks the strings over the fretboard an octave above from where he frets the notes which creates a very interesting sub-octave type sound but without using a pedal. The groove picks up and the chords create a nice wash texture. Justin takes a rhythmic Rhodes solo starting with the lower range of the keyboard for a change. Mike plays in 4/4 for a minute which revamps the groove once again. Justin gets into it and shows off his chops. The outro is funky and Mark chooses a cleaner tone than usual. Justin improvises some melodies on the Prophet 6 before playing the main unison riff up an octave to what it usually is with Mark. Mason Davis joins Mike on the krakebs for the outro. ‘YES YES YES MEMPHIS!’ Mike said after the song.
Shofukan – Mark starts this one off with a jangly and delay heavy tone. The horns come in without any chordal accompaniment this time as Justin was busy playing the trumpet. However, at the end of this section, Bobby swells in some lovely chords on the organ to fill out the sonic landscape. Justin’s trumpet tone here is spot on and very mellow. He nails the perfect 5th leap and manages to keep his tone very consistent throughout the large register. The B section gets a different groove from JT and Mark adds some new embellishments to the melody. The following section is super groovy thanks to Bobby’s clavinet playing which cannot really be described in a sentence; it’s just too good. He uses lots of wah and gets expressive by timing the sweeps with the quaver rhythm of the song. For the breakdown section, Mark uses a more aggressive sound with some octave fuzz and Mike joins in with some percussive and wah heavy bass playing. Things fade into the solo section where Justin switches to the Rhodes as Bob takes the solo on tenor saxophone. Bob takes his time and really develops each one of his lines and isn’t afraid to repeat himself over and over again. Justin gets playful with the Rhodes accompanying. At one point it almost sounds like a bass solo as Mike plays the tastiest fill you’ve ever heard! Bobby joins in with the conversation just as Bob switches to his altissimo range. The final moments of Bob’s are very high energy as he starts using more of his chops. The interlude section sees Mark anticipate the chords. The outro section is really heavy thanks to Bobby’s clavinet bassline and Mark’s overdriven lines. JT and Marcelo play a busier groove than usual with a strong emphasis on the sextuplet rhythms. They get some time alone before Mike brings them back in with another very tasty bass fill. After the horns leave for the 2nd time, Mike plays a droning low B note with the wah and octaver before JT and Marcelo get some more time to experiment. They go nuts here! The audience starts chanting the offbeats and then Mark comes in with some power chords! The groove goes Toto and starts swinging here and Mark adapts his guitar line accordingly. It’s so ridiculously funky. Bobby plays some nice power chords in the background with the clavinet to emulate what Mark was doing earlier on. Mike takes a moment to introduce the band under just Mark’s guitar line. The band comes back in stronger than ever after this and Mike plays one more ridiculous bass fill before the horn outro.
Lingus – Justin starts this one off briskly on the Rhodes. Bobby doubles the bassline on the clavinet underneath the classic horn melody. There are some harmonies in this version that I haven’t heard elsewhere. Bobby gets funky in the last B section and starts playing some volume swells and some nice chords on the clavinet for a change which gives this version a very different feel. He switches over to the organ when Justin hops in the synth seat during the trading section. Chris starts off on saxophone with lots of chorus type effects and uses the rhythms from the previous melody to ground his solo. Maz follows with the wah trumpet and plays some brisk lines. Chris continues his solo with some nice melodic minor licks and Maz continues his flowing lines. Chris then goes on by playing one note for his 4 bars; a very dissonant note as well. Maz uses this in his solo too. The groove is cooking here and really follows the dubstep character that Mike originally intended for this song to have. Things fade into the solo section under a wash of Justin’s Rhodes chord. Mike handles the distinctive bassline and Bobby plays an incredible organ solo. He takes his time early on and repeats himself often. He also reharmonizes the bassline but continues his melodic playing simultaneously. He has lots of short bursts of a lot of notes and then cuts it off last minute to pace him. Justin and Mark join in with the bassline and get funky with some little fills and some percussive string slapping Mark. At the 7 minute mark, Bobby opens right up and plays some beautiful chords and then starts making these amazing choppy textures. JT thickens up the groove tremendously here and then out of nowhere, Bobby harmonizes with himself on the Moog and organ using the horn melody that occurs at the very end of the tune. Mike jumps on this idea and gets playful with the bassline. Mark adds some nice arpeggios in the background too. He finishes on the peak of energy and the horns continue with their busy lines. Bobby switches over to the clavinet and plays a mixture of virtuosic lines and some funky chordal stabs. Justin joins the horns for this final section so the texture is thinner than usual. The outro is high energy and the crowd goes nuts.
- Bob Reynolds – Tenor Saxophone
- Chris Bullock – Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Flute
- Mike ‘Maz’ Maher – Trumpet and Flugelhorn
- Justin Stanton – Trumpet, Keyboard, Rhodes, Prophet 6
- Michael League – Bass
- Mark Lettieri – Guitar
- Zach Brock – Violin
- Bobby Sparks – Organ, Clavinet, Moog, 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.