These days, it’s good to be from New Orleans. While many citizens of the city took time off from their continuing rebuilding efforts to celebrate the first Saints Super Bowl in history on Tuesday, they could celebrate to the sounds of New Orleans born and bred funk band Galactic and its new album Ya-ka-may (Anti).
The release, which fittingly coincided with the Saints’ victory parade, is a return to roots for Galactic, with guest stars on every track highlighting New Orleans’ rich musical history. Artists such as Trombone Shorty, The Rebirth Brass Band, Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint all feature on the various tracks that showcase the soul and funk that the city has to offer.
The anticipation of both the Super Bowl and the new album were palpable at the Paradise Rock Club last Wednesday when Galactic kicked off its east coast tour with a show that featured both young trombone player Corey Henry and legendary percussionist for The Meters Cyril Neville for both sets.
The show began with the Rebirth Brass Band song “Blackbird Special” and transitioned quickly through some fanfare funk led by Henry and Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman. The two horn players led the way through the driving beats laid down by incredible drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio by soaring above the heads of the crowd with hard-hitting, unison funk lines.
The horns again took center stage with the instrumental “Tuff Love” off of 2007’s From The Corner To The Block, which similarly showcased a number of different artists, largely underground MC’s such as Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and Boots Riley from The Coup. From there, Galactic delved into its first material off Ya-ka-may with “You Don’t Know” and “Heart of Steel,” which featured Neville on center stage vocals.
Having Neville as a constant presence on stage was an interesting combination. The Meters is known as quintessential New Orleans groove funk, with laid-back vibes and bouncy, danceable mixes of stellar musicianship, while Galactic spouts a more in-your-face variety of dirty horn funk. Regardless of the stylistic differences between the groups, that common Creole-southern feel courses through both.
The second set featured four songs off the new album, delivered with the crispness that comes from the opening night of a tour. Throughout the night, the band peppered the crowd with thank you’s and “Who Dat” chants as the optimistic vibe grew. “Crazyhorse Mongoose” brought out the best of both keyboardist Rich Vogel and guitarist Jeff Raines, both who shined in extended solos, while Moore took it upon himself to shun a drum stick and play with a tambourine instead.
Ellman’s cousin Lucas Ellman then joined the band for a solo during set closer “From The Corner To The Block” which also included Henry rapping the verses. An encore of “Baker’s Dozen” which stretched into a Dixieland jazz version of “When The Saints Go Marching In” was a fitting end to the night. As the city of New Orleans celebrates its Saints, Galactic goes marching along on their east coast tour bringing its bright, infectious blend of funk.
Lucas Ellman, cousin of Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman, took the stage with Galactic on February 3rd at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston and performed during the song From The Corner To The Block