The second show of the night. A completely different setlist, a different atmosphere and some more incredible playing. Both of the Toronto shows are really interesting listens due to hearing how the band manages without having the usual 3 or 2 keyboardists. It’s also a lot of fun hearing how Bob and McQueen divide up their parts to not step on each other’s toes so to speak. It’s also great to have Jay Jennings in the lineup again as he often doesn’t manage to make Snarky’s busy touring schedule. Compared to Maz or Justin, Jay often brings a more bop based style to the band that we don’t usually hear.
Embossed – After the usual drum intro, Nate and JT play a more simplistic groove and Bob comes in with a more rubato time feel with the Ebow melody. McQueen doubles the last few notes with contrasting and more effects-heavy sound. Jay, Zach and Bullock join in with the double guitars later on. Bob harmonizes with McQueen up a 5th with the syncopated, pentatonic based melody. For the B section, McQueen doubles Zach with an extremely overdriven and gritty tone. The second A section is super luscious thanks to some nice ambient guitar playing from Bob and McQueen. For the solo section, Bob takes it, and McQueen doubles the bassline with an octave fuzz tone. Bob gets nice and experimental with heavy use of the whammy bar, pick scrapping and major over minor scale use. At one point he references the rhythm from the main melody but uses extremely fast demisemiquavers and some pretty ‘out-there’ note choices. Things fade into a wash of delay during the horn soli. The groove settles down just before the outro. Bob handles the semiquaver based single note line and McQueen dials up the fuzz tone once again for the outro melody. Bullock to switches to the flute for the usual, distinctive melody.
Flood – This version begins with a guitar intro by McQueen. He uses a much more unconventional sound than most of his other Flood intros and uses more arpeggio-based improvising. The unconventional sound in question is one that is slightly overdriven with an octave down effect courtesy of the EHX Micro POG. He explores some more non-diatonic harmony too. After an ascending and then descending line, he segues into an extremely different take on the Flood riff. He plays some hammered-on chords with some rhythmic basslines on the low E and A strings. It’s super slow also (around 94 BPM). The A major chord has a Lydian flavor for a change. JT comes in gently with some simple ride cymbal rhythms. Mike, Bob and Shaun lay out completely for the first melody as McQueen plays Charlie Hunter style bass and guitar playing all at once. During the mid-head break, McQueen switches over to playing the original Flood keyboard/guitar riff and Mike plays some Motown-esque bass grooves. Bob contrasts to McQueens’s more staccato approach to the riff with some lovely ambient, open-string chords. The B section gets the guitar line doubled in 2 octaves, and Mike goes on a reharmonization adventure by diverting from the usual 1 and 5 intervals. McQueen’s sound is slightly flanged, very delay heavy and with some smooth, pulsating tremolo. The horns sound very luscious in this version with lots of shimmer type reverbs being used. Just before the 7/8 section, Mike plays an arpeggiated bassline and JT plays a funkier groove. The second 7/8 section is much faster. JT does a seamless job of transitioning from 95 BPM to about 115 BPM. This section is playful thanks to lots of keyboard fills from Shaun. Chris Bullock gets a saxophone here which was a nice surprise. The solo section takes on a less electro/funk sound and more of an Afrobeat feel. Bob and McQueen shine here with their comping. Bullock screeches here with some insanely high altissimo notes. The section gets a nice offbeat groove from JT and Mike gets slightly chordal with his bassline just before the 5/8 section. Bullock fades away into the unison horn melody without trouble. McQueen switches over to that flanged, delay heavy sound from the earlier 5/8 section. JT gets experimental with his drum solo here and isn’t afraid to mess with the time as he knows exactly how to get back. Bullock and Jay make a little slip up with the melody here and end up finding themselves 6 bars ahead; the same thing happened in Montreal the previous night! This time everyone could feel it coming as the horns left plenty of warning so there weren’t any problems. The crescendo is huge! Shaun uses both the Korg Kronos keyboard and the Mellotron for the fattest sound possible. Bob sadly gets buried in this mix with his 3-note melody; McQueen’s guitar was much louder this entire show. The ‘drop’ features a much simpler drum and bass groove and McQueen uses the octave pedal again for a synth-like sound. Bob sticks to a more traditional overdriven sound. Shaun switches over to the Rhodes for some incredibly funky rhythmic comping. He simplifies his comping to just crotchets before the guitar/drum refrain. The outro is funky and a little slower than usual. Shaun keeps a single note line going and JT swings. Mike’s octave pedal bassline is amazing here and lifts the entire groove up to a new high point. Mike says wassup to Toronto and more specifically ‘the late crowd, the party crowd.’
Bigly Strictness – This one is slightly up-tempo and super groovy thanks to JT and Mike’s sub-octave basslines. Bob plays the usual slide guitar part and McQueen takes on a chordal role switching between the guitar arpeggios and some synth-style comping to fill the spot of the missing keyboardist/s. He does a great job, and the song doesn’t lose its intensity at any point which can sometimes happen with guitar comping instead of a synth/organ. Due to the smaller horn section, Bullock’s pedal heavy sax sound is heard with much more clarity than usual. Zach takes the first solo with a flanged and overdriven sound. He starts with a few sparse ideas and repeats himself often. JT, Mike and Shaun are so together here and lets Zach play around with the time. Zach starts playing some longer lines with some great chromaticism before ending on a climactic set of high notes. Bob brings in the arpeggios for the interlude section and McQueen doubles them down the octave. The second solo gets a lot funkier and more energetic. Bob takes a slide solo with a load of overdrive for maximum sustain with a focus on driving semiquaver, pentatonic based lines. McQueen’s comping is so amazing here; you don’t really miss the extra keyboards at all! McQueen’s tone is the perfect balance of gritty and clean, punchy and smooth and present but not overbearing. The breakdown section fades away into JT’s gentle drum groove and some ambient volume swells from Bob and McQueen. The outro horn melody floats over everything rhythmically speaking. Shaun plays a Moog solo and takes his time. Bob and McQueen get eerie and ambient with their comping with the use of lots of delay and tremolo. Shaun picks things up and shows off his virtuosity and connects his lines from chord to chord. He ends on an almost wrong note but bends it up slowly until it sounds right!
Whitecap – Anytime this song starts I know I’m in for a treat. Whitecap has consistently been one of my favorite songs that Snarky plays live, and this version is no exception despite the very different lineup. Mike sets this one up like usual with some bass harmonics with some delay and wah courtesy of the MXR Carbon Copy and MXR mini bass wah. JT enters soon after with some super funky semiquaver based hi-hat rhythm. Bob brings in the slide melody gently with some subtle volume swells. McQueen arpeggiates the chords beneath him and JT and Mike build the intensity. Shaun comes in confidently with the classic syncopated synth chords. McQueen uses a wobbly, vibrato tone for the unison melody with the horns before turning on the wah for the second A section melody. The chorus section is super high energy thanks to McQueen and Shaun playing some saturated chords. Mike and JT’s groove gets a lot stronger. The breakdown section sees McQueen play the chordal role instead of the usual Rhodes. He starts off with the bassline from the succeeding section and arpeggiates the notes in the chords simultaneously. JT keeps a steady snare drum backbeat going. The rest of the band returns and the groove peaks. Shaun uses the pitch bend with his chordal comping. The horn soli is super tight, Bob and Zach double them, and McQueen and Shaun get super funky. Afterwards, Shaun sustains the chords with a super washy, 80s era synth sound and Mike turns on the Octave Pedal. McQueen picks up the intensity with his percussive, chordal comping. The second horn breakdown section starts off with no chords; I think everyone must’ve been indecisive over who’d play! Mike starts with some bass chords, but Shaun soon jumps in with some reharmonized chords. Things soon go ragtime! Bullock plays around with the melody a bit too. The rest of the band returns stronger than ever, and Jay takes an incredible Flugel solo with blazing lines and screech trumpet-like high notes (extremely difficult on the Flugel). McQueen makes good use of the wah here and Bob chooses a clean tone for some single-note lines. Shaun’s Mellotron makes an appearance. JT and Jay get some time alone together. JT’s drumming is reminiscent of a dance/club mix. Jay’s lines are just ridiculous and make things look effortless. The final melody returns, and the groove is huge. McQueen gets expressive with the wah on the final chord.
Young Stuff – Bob and McQueen divide their parts in half. McQueen handles the bassline and Bob plays the classic singular chord strike. Both Bob and McQueen use a slapback delay sound, very rockabilly. Jay plays the melody solo for the first few bars. Bullock joins in a little later with some tasty harmonies. JT keeps things stupidly solid with a simplistic cross-stick groove before opening up for the interlude section. The solo section is incredibly funky. Shaun switches from Rhodes to an organ sound on the Korg Kronos for a very simple, 4 to a bar comping style. McQueen and Bob play more syncopated. McQueen plays high pitched chords and Bob plays some single-note lines; both with sparkling clean tones. Bullock takes an amazing and lyrical solo on the tenor here. He makes heavy use of chromaticism and the full range of the sax. Jay and Zach play the backing figures an octave above usual! The song’s dynamic quietens dramatically into the outro solo section. Shaun fades his organ comping away into a volume swelled Rhodes chord. Mike takes an incredible bass solo here and gets rhythmic from early on. The semiquaver heavy nature of the groove emerges much earlier than usual and JT plays some serious fills and gets playful with Mike’s syncopated bass chords. Bob plays some arpeggiated chords with a bridge pickup tone. McQueen lays out here to let Bob and Shaun shine. JT gets into hundreds of different grooves and feels before the end of the solo and Mike sounds like he’s having the time of his life playing around each and every one of them. What an amazing, but somewhat short solo. The last chord is held for ages and is very dramatic. Shaun steps up to the mic and says ‘Mr. Mike League on the bass y’all. Put some of them hands together for that s***!’
Tio Macaco – Nate sets this one up like usual with an adventurous Bongo/Conga/Timbale solo. He explores dynamics a lot more than usual here. He begins playing the main groove on the cowbell. Bullock improvises a little bit on the bass flute before bringing in the main melody. Zach and Jay join him soon after. Bullock harmonizes with the two of them. JT and Nate get some more time alone to build up the groove. When the melody emerges for the second time, McQueen joins in with some percussive, pitch-less comping. The crowd shouts in time with the hits. The solo section gets some funky clavinet playing from Shaun, except not on the clavinet but rather the Korg Kronos (a multi-sound keyboard workstation). Bullock starts off the solo on the regular flute with some syncopated lines and the occasional non-functional note choices. Jay starts his solo early and he and Bullock play a unison line together. Jay’s solo is full of trills, rolls and bluesy lines with lots of the flat third. Zach gets a solo too which is not something I hear too often! He plays the most chromatically and out-there of the 3. Great ideas and lines all around. The B section is nice and quite luscious texturally with some new harmonies from Jay using the trumpets low register. JT and Nate get super funky on the outro drum duet. JT introduces a disco-like drum groove for a change.
Xavi – Mike introduces the 4:3 polyrhythm clapping sequence. For the first time, that I know of, Mike has to slow down the groove for the audience. After the usual horn introduction, Mike, JT and Nate bring in the classic groove. Mike has a brief 2 bar pause during the middle of 8 bar section at the start to clap and count over the mic. Bullock brings the melody in on the flute and then Bob and McQueen play the guitar riff in unison. After the whole band joins in with the main groove, the song sounds quite different largely due to the absence of Bobby and his clavinet. Shaun uses a clavinet keyboard patch, but it’s not as gritty as Bobby’s which gives this version a smoother sound. McQueen plays a chordal role and Bob doubles the bass riff with Mike and Shaun. Jay uses the Harmon mute for the A section Melody and Bullock switches to the Tenor. Zach joins them on the violin. For the B section, McQueen doubles the insanely complex descending melody and Bob and Shaun keep the intensity up with the washy chords. Bob takes the first solo with lots of Whammy bar action with a generous helping of overdrive. Bob also experiments with drone notes and some Phrygian licks for a very different flavor of tonality. Bob fades away into the B section chords effortlessly. McQueen, Zach, Jay and Bullock all play the melody. The second solo is super funky with Shaun playing some tasty clav riffs. Bob and Mike play the bassline and McQueen comps chordally for the first few measures before taking a very staccato solo; contrasting hugely from Bob’s solo. McQueen sticks more closely to the tunes Dorian tonality, but he also incorporates more outside playing than Bob. McQueen doesn’t use the whammy bar at all and refrains from note bending for a change. His semiquaver lines are played so effortlessly and really helps lift the section. After the third and final B section, all but Nate and JT stop playing for a short little breakdown section just before Bullock and Mike bring in the outro section. The audience gets their first opportunity to put the clapping sequence into practice. The melody is accompanied beautifully by Bob with some ambient chords. Shaun takes an incredible and outside line heavy Rhodes solo accompanied by JT, Nate, Mike and McQueen. McQueen plays a single note rhythmic line and sticks with it throughout most of the solo before finally switching to fuller chords that reference the 4 part of the polyrhythm. Shaun gets super chromatic here, much more than any other keyboardist I’ve heard solo here. McQueen keeps his rhythmic comping going underneath the final melody and Bob reintroduces the ambient volume swells from before. The outro is high energy thanks to a load of distortion and overdrive from both guitarists. Bob and McQueen nail the outro unison melody; the sound is super thick, but it sounds like just one guitarist. Mike introduces the whole band and the SP crew.
What About Me? (Encore) – This version is so awesome, which I think is largely due to Shaun getting to experiment with reharmonization and synth sounds as usually, Justin does all of that. Shaun’s approach is very different but helps to redefine with song. Bob starts the classic riff and McQueen doubles the bassline. For the first melody, the band does the awesome slow-down. Shaun dials up a much more 80’s synth sound and McQueen introduces some funky, percussive comping earlier on than usual. After the chorus section with everyone in unison, JT drops out for the first bar of the melody. Shaun’s amazing synth comping gets focused much more clearly here and both Bob and McQueen go mad with their whammy bars with the melody. The bridge section gets some wah and sub-octave bass lines from Mike alongside the usual Rhodes and Tenor sax melody. Just before the solo section, JT gets super funky and heavy on Shaun reharmonizes every single chord! The beginning of the solo section sees a wash of cymbals and synth chords from JT and Shaun. JT and Nate bring in a super funky new groove with a very disco-like sound. Zach takes an incredible solo with the harmonizer, probably my favorite solos of his in recent memory. He plays super rhythmically but also balances this with some ridiculously smooth lines. The harmonizer, phaser and overdrive used really take this song back to the ’80s. JT and Zach experiment a little bit mid-solo by breaking down the groove slightly and varying the dynamics and tense of tonality. In typical Zach fashion, the end of his solo is super climactic with loads of blazing lines and virtuosic on all levels. Shaun and McQueen bring in the chordal riff and Zach continues the shredding. McQueen introduces a single drone note just before the linking section. Zach doubles Mike, Bob, McQueen and Shaun with the unison melody up 2 octaves. JT destroys the outro solo like usual with a ton of polyrhythms, but he never loses the beat at any point. Mike lays down the bassline effortlessly here to keep everyone in check. JT incorporates the ride cymbal into a hemiola heavy groove towards the end of the solo. At this moment, Shaun joins Mike with the bassline on the synth. JT explodes and manages to push the section even further! McQueen uses the wah for the unison riff and Bob uses the autowah. Shaun plays some washy synth chords over the outro with the horn harmonies. The final chord is sustained and the whole band improvises to make it as intense as possible. Mike says Thank You 7 times to a wonderful Toronto audience!
- Chris Bullock – tenor sax, flute, and alto flute
- Jay Jennings – trumpet and flugelhorn
- Zach Brock – violin
- Shaun Martin – keyboards
- Chris McQueen – guitar
- Bob Lanzetti – guitar
- Michael League – bass
- Jason ‘JT’ Thomas – drums
- Nate Werth – percussion
- Matt Recchia – engineering and sound (front of house)
- Michael Harrison – monitors
- Neil Macintosh- 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.