Snarky Puppy Concert Review: Montreal, QB, Canada – September 6th, 2019

This show in Montreal is one of my absolute favorites. Firstly, the mix is extremely clear and balanced. Secondly, the setlist is magnificent.  This show consists of some of my favorites from Immigrance like Even Us, While We’re Young and Xavi as well as my favorite old tune, Flood, which was a lovely surprise considering they played it the previous night. This show also features Montreal’s own Malika Tirolien from Bokanté killing it on Xavi with a vocal solo and playing in unison with an extremely challenging horn melody. Very cool.

Track-By-Track

Even Us – McQueen starts this one off like usual with a clean, middle-pickup tone. Interestingly, Bobby and Shaun split the melody up between the two of them on organ and keyboard respectivley. Zach brings in the main melody gently and Marcelo adds some ever so subtle cymbal work that builds up to a chord and then fades away immediately afterwards. After the form restarts, Bobby improvises a little bit on the organ. Justin creates some volume swells on the Rhodes thickening the texture a little bit. Zach and Bobby handle the melody role from here on and Bullock and Justin (flugelhorn) add the backing harmonies. The song builds up more and more but is still remarkably patient and gentle, until the solo section. JT takes it through the roof here and Bobby gets funky on the Moog. The texture thickens immensely and Justin takes an eerie flugelhorn solo. He starts by using the very bottom of his range with a more aspirate tone. He incorporates some very fast demisemiquaver lines, but they’re all broken up into tiny chunks to not overwhelm the audience too early. At the 6 minute mark, Bobby joins in on Justin’s monologue and plays some matching rhythmic lines on the organ with a ton of delay. The groove simmers away and Justin stretches and gets more out there. His lines are unbelievably good in this solo and the band backs him up in the best ways possible. Justin harmonizes with the final melody once the main tune returns. Zach gets textural on the violin before the usual Shaun and McQueen outro. 

Tarova – Justin starts this one with some very behind-the-beat synth playing. The tone he dialed up on the Prophet is more gritty and resonant than the usual smooth sound. Bobby starts his trading with Shaun slightly earlier than usual but leaves loads of space. He makes great use of the delay again. McQueen gets funky towards the end of the trading with some rhythmic comping. Justin plays two-handed on synth and Rhodes. Shaun doubles the melody with Bobby on the talkbox before the trading continues. The horn melody just features Bullock and Zach this time as Justin is handling keyboard duties. However, after the original album version groove begins, Justin switches off keys to the trumpet. Bobby handles the synth-pad chords on the organ which gives the tune a very different sound. Bullock takes a solo moving on from here and plays around with the placement of the semiquavers. He uses his full range and plays lots of jazzy licks. He gets some time alone with JT and moves away from the G minor tonality. Justin returns to the keyboard chair for the outro. Just when you might think the tune is about to end, Marcelo gets a percussion solo! He swings and plays lots of sextuplet heavy rhythms. Justin uses that same Prophet sound from the start and uses it for the chordal stabs. McQueen and Bobby get super funky on the final outro.

While We’re Young – Mike and JT set this one up at a super funky slow tempo. The smaller horn section is really noticeable with the opening melody as you can hear a lot more from Zach. Zach also had to learn some more harmonizes as he plays alongside McQueen just before the chorus section. The chorus section features a different 8th note heavy groove and the energy is a little lower than usual. The solo section follows on with a spacey twist. McQueen and Justin play some of the best ambient comping you’ve ever heard. Zach takes an amazing solo with lots of ‘outside notes.’ Justin matches much of what he plays with some tasty reharmonized chords. Mike’s bassline is very simple and helps to keep a leash on the ever-evolving weirdness! Things get super funky and even weirder thanks to Bobby’s single note clav comping and Zach’s absence of fear. The solo builds some more under a wash of notes and delay from Zach who then leads perfectly into the next section and horn harmony. McQueen plays some amazing rhythmic comping just before switching over to playing the Slide melody. Zach harmonizes with him here. McQueen takes a beautiful solo in between the horn melody. He repeats himself often and chooses what could be described as perfect notes. The final chord is extended for ages by Bobby and McQueen. McQueen uses this to create an unusual segue into Flood; coming from a very different tonality rather than starting in the key of Flood

Flood – McQueen’s intro solo here is probably the best I’ve ever heard and is completely different from any other version of Flood. He meanders harmonically much more than usual and uses a bluesy, overdriven bridge-pickup sound. He fades away into a wash of cymbals from JT and a low, ringing bass note from Mike. After a brief pause, McQueen plays the classic riff at a gentle, slower tempo with a crispy, slightly gritty tone. JT and Marcelo come in early with some very simple ride cymbal and bongo playing. Mike follows with the distinctive 1 and 5 bassline and Justin adds some ambient volume swells on Rhodes. I never noticed this before writing this review as it’s extremely subtle, but Bobby or Shaun are playing some very high pitched and syncopated melodies. Justin drops out in the 4 bar break between the 2 heads to switch to Harmon Mute trumpet. The drum/bass groove picks up and Bobby and Shaun play lots of melodic fills on the keys. The B section features McQueen’s ringing guitar line and some exquisite comping from Bobby on the Organ. Zach and the Horns add some new harmonies to the classic descending melody. The return to the 7/8 is quite playful featuring lots of drum fills from JT as well as some more keyboard and Organ fills. The solo section is more structured and features a steady drum bass groove with some amazing comping from Shaun using an acoustic piano patch. McQueen takes the solo here and destroys it! He starts quite sparse with lots of short, syncopated phrases which then build up to more flowing lines with lots of note bending. The groove builds and builds and Mike starts introducing some nice approach notes to the C# minor and A major chords like Bb and D which are not in the key of the song but really help to define the chord changes. Bobby and Shaun adapt quickly and McQueen plays around these new changes with ease showing off his more straight-ahead jazz chops. He segues his solo into the 5/8 section by doubling the bassline into the usual guitar line. The dynamic remains fairly high into the new section until the 5th bar where it immediately quietens and fades away into a very sensitive drum solo by JT. JT’s phrasing here is perfect. The smaller horn (and violin) section produces a very different sound. After the midpoint in the drum solo, Justin harmonizes with Bullock and Zach by playing below them with a mix of 6ths and 3rds. It is here however that Justin loses track of the form and comes into the crescendo 6 bars early. No big deal however as the chords are the same, it just came as a surprise to me and everyone else in the band. Mike and Shaun were quick to react and things settle very soon. By the end of this section, Bobby and Shaun are playing non-stop creating a very dense and saturated soundscape adding to the intensity of this climactic section. After the usual descending horn line comes the ‘drop.’ It’s more energetic than normal thanks to Bobby’s sustained organ chords and funky clav playing with his spare hand. Mike’s heavy, octave pedal bassline and JT’s simplistic but very funky drum groove keeps everything sitting nicely. The refrain gets some ‘bass tapping’ from Mike and some licks from Bobby on the clavinet. The outro is up tempo and energetic thanks to Bobby’s sustained organ chords yet again. Shaun plays some improvised melodies on the Moog here for a change and Mike uses the octave pedal again for the heaviest of sounds. Justin harmonizes with Bullock and Zach on the final chord. The crowd goes wild.

Bad Kids to The Back – This one starts off real funky largely thanks to Marcelo’s bongo playing and JT’s incredibly solid groove. McQueen uses the wah here too. Justin, Bullock and Zach handle the melodic chores. Every instrument can be heard with such clarity here. McQueen’s funky guitar playing gets highlighted more in this mix which is nice. After the horns and rhythm section switch roles, the groove fades into almost nothing and Shaun begins an extremely tasty keyboard solo. He plays some ridiculous lines with a detached and displaced semiquaver feel. Towards the end he cranks the resonance filter for a more aggressive sound and fades out on a long, bent note after some insanely fast shredding. The interlude section is really high energy thanks to Bobby’s sustained organ chords and Shaun’s rhythmic comping. McQueen and Zach harmonize with each other on the melody. Justin switches from Rhodes to Trumpet last minute to help bring out the melody more clearly. Things settle into… Chaos! JT takes a polyrhythmic and virtuosic drum solo full of dynamics and as close to melodicism as one can get on the drums. By the end he is beating the living daylights out of the kit and Bobby adds an infinitely sustaining note on the organ helping to raise the energy even further. What an amazing drum solo! McQueen and Mike double each other with the bassline and the horn harmonies sound surprisingly beefy with just Bullock and Justin. 

Chonks – A slightly faster version of Chonks that is insanely tight and features some classic Shaun ‘crowd hype.’ Shaun brings the melody in with the moog and talkbox combo and Bullock plays the follow-up melody solo as Justin is busy with some funky Rhodes comping. Justin switches to Trumpet on the final melody before the main groove begins again and we get to hear McQueen’s tasty comping in more detail. Bullock takes a tenor solo following on from this. Bobby restrains himself so well during this tune and sticks completely to the bassline in its most simplistic form. Bullock includes lots of altissimo lines, chromaticism and he plays in between the rhythm of the tune very well highlighting the rhythms from the B section melody. Bobby and Shaun get weird after this with their breakdown with JT. Bobby plays up the octave to normal and adds some lower 5th intervals to create so-called ‘power chords.’ Pure rock n roll! The tune bubbles away like normal until the final breakdown where Bobby plays a ridiculously fast repeated descending line on the clavinet. This segues into the outro section. It’s unbelievably funky. McQueen dials up an aggressive and gritty octave fuzz tone for the bassline. The smaller horn section is most noticeable here, but they do a great job. Bobby switches from organ to the clav for a killing solo. He uses the Digitech whammy pedal for some octave up and down effect. In typical Bobby fashion, there are a great deal of bluesy licks, bent notes, loads of distortion and crazy outside playing! Bobby continues the solo over the outro too and this then turns into a percussion solo by Marcelo to set up the next tune. 

Tio Macaco – Marcelo’s solo is more groove-oriented than usual and he refrains from getting too polyrhythmic. Bullock joins in early on with the bass flute with some bluesy licks and an aspirate sound. Marcelo increases the dynamics a good deal just before Bullock comes in with the main melody. JT brings in the hi-hat rhythm and everything settles down. Justin and Zach harmonize with Bullock on occasion and play some improvised lines to fill some space. Everyone except Marcelo and JT drop out and the groove thickens. Bullock switches over to the regular flute to play the melody at its usual register. Justin uses a Harmon mute here which gives the horn section a very different sound. McQueen plays some percussive comping here without any distinct pitch which blends beautifully with the percussion section. Bobby and McQueen bring in the main harmonic riff and Shaun goes old school ragtime minus the ragtime feel. Bullock starts off the solo section with lots of fragmented and rhythmic lines plus mostly staccato articulation. He ends on the minor 2nd interval for some weirdness! Justin uses this to start his solo outside the tonality of the tune. He plays lots of post bop inspired lines and has a super warm and mellow tone. Zach and Bullock bring in some baking figures just before the B section. The crowd chants on the hits. The outro section gets lots of reharmonized bass notes from Mike and some luscious organ playing from Bobby. The tempo speeds up a ton afterwards beginning the drum/percussion duet. Marcelo kills it on the bongos, timbales and congas. JT keeps a steady beat going with the toms and bass drum plus the hi-hat rhythm from the main groove. Things move away from the beat for a moment with some amazing polyrhythms. Marcelo helps pick up the energy immensely here with the use of the dry cymbals. JT brings a simplistic but incredibly funky disco-inspired groove. There is a moment with both of them just using the rims of the drums and the crowd goes wild with anticipation of what might come next. They keep this idea going for quite a while and then JT brings in some rumbling tom rhythms and it gets next level funky. This is when they start playing the final, unison rhythms. This was one of the best Marcelo/JT duets I’ve ever heard! 

Xavi – Mike begins instructing the audience on the 4:3 polyrhythm clapping sequence. He welcomes Malika Tirolien to the stage and also encourages her daughter Maya to dance along. Mike says ‘she’s gonna bust out some Herbie Hancock s*** when we’re not watching.’ Xavi finally starts at a pretty modest, medium tempo. Things follow the arrangement until after the guitar break. Bobby comes in loud and clear with the clavinet bassline and Malika cheers over the mic. She doubles the insanely complex melody and somehow manages to sing every note, even the super low, tenor saxophone notes! The B section melody is sung with such clarity despite this one being probably the hardest to play in Snarky’s song list largely due to its huge range. McQueen takes the first solo and gets insanely funky and chordal. His syncopated lines are just on point! He closes with some ascending chromatic chords and finishes on a semiquaver heavy line. The second solo section is super funky also but is at a much quieter dynamic. McQueen originally uses the wah for his comping but switches off this to get a more percussive sound. Bobby takes this solo on the clav and simply shows off! The shredding, the lines, the note-bending… it’s all just some of the highest quality playing I’ve ever heard. This was quite a short from Bobby actually, but absolutely monstrous nonetheless. Malika starts a vocal solo during the breakdown with just Marcelo’s timbale playing as accompaniment for the majority of it. She focuses on singing shorter phrases with much syncopation for the first half before then opening right up and going ‘screamer mode.’ Mike adds some ‘slap bass’ here as well to give some more rhythmic support and intensity to match Malika’s powerful voice. This fades into the outro melody from Bullock. Justin takes a Rhodes solo afterwards and showcases his chops with some highly syncopated lines. He gets very chromatic towards the end and plays some washy chords in the left hand while keeping the improvised melodies going. The outro is high energy thanks to McQueen’s gritty guitar line and the chaotic horn/violin part. Malika doubles McQueen with the outro melody. 

Lingus (Encore) – Mike introduces the band and makes a special note of the ever-changing band lineup, which would be changing 11 times! He introduces Justin as ‘Triple Duty Justin Stanton’ for his work as the sole trumpeter/flugelhornist and as a keyboardist. As usual, the crowd goes berserk when Justin plays the iconic Rhodes riff. This version sounds quite different from normal as Justin leaves the Rhodes chair pretty early on to switch to the trumpet to help Bullock and Zach out. Bobby’s clavinet is super clear in this mix and he plays a fairly rhythmic role with a very cool repeated, single note quaver comping pattern. He also doubles Mike’s bassline to make it sound as huge as possible. The trading section gets a lot more guitar than usual due to the lack of Justin on the Rhodes. McQueen plays a constant semiquaver comping rhythm here which helps propel the section along with a high level of intensity. Bullock starts off the trading with some swinging lines and a relaxed time feel. Justin follows with a similar, more jazzy approach to this solo section with a good deal of outside, bop-like phrases. All of the high energy drops down to almost nothing for the main solo section where Zach takes a scorching violin solo with a ton of delay and overdrive! He starts with some more searing lines before getting a little more rhythmic with some driving, semiquaver lines. The solo sections dynamics go through a few different phases. At one point it sounds like it’s building up, but then it drops back down again. After this, Bobby comes in loud and clear with a 2 note rhythmic comping pattern and Shaun adds some subtle chordal accompaniment with an acoustic Piano patch. JT picks it up here and Zach starts shredding with a good deal of outside scales before bringing it home with the Dorian mode. Shaun adds a synth pad underneath the solo section, and McQueen picks up his funky comping from before. Mike deviates from the regular bassline slightly for some chordal playing. Zach turns on the delay towards the end and builds up to his highest (in key) note! The trading between the horn solis and Zach is much more energetic than usual thanks to Bobby’s sustained organ chords and Shaun’s super funky chordal stabs. McQueen too brings an unbelievable amount of energy to this section with his continuous percussive comping. Zach uses the harmonizer sparingly on the outro for some more weirdness just when you’d think it wasn’t possible to get any more out there! The syncopated final measures get the crowd super hyped up just before Mike says goodbye to a wonderful show. 

Personnel

  • Chris Bullock – tenor sax, flute, and alto flute
  • Mike “Maz” Maher – trumpet, flugelhorn, and vocals
  • Justin Stanton – trumpet and keyboards
  • Bobby Sparks – keyboards
  • Shaun Martin – keyboards
  • Mark Lettieri – guitar
  • Michael League – bass
  • Larnell Lewis – drums and vocals
  • Marcelo Woloski – percussion

Sound Crew:

  • Matt Recchia – engineering and sound (front of house)
  • Michael Harrison – monitors
  • Ted Tuthill – 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.

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