The all 'Tones talk area.
I saw the Flecktones last night for the first time in years, and I have to say, it was quite a show. Having discovered them around the time of Little Worlds, I was not really familiar with much of the music played last night, or with Howard in general, but from comments on the site, I went in with high expectations that were certainly met. A couple observations:
- Strathmore is absolutely beautiful - visually stunning, impeccable acoustics, comfortable seats. It was worth fighting traffic to "cross the river" to get there, and is making me rethink my decision to forgo the Pat Metheny show there next spring.
- Howard was unbelievable. Some of the things he played on the harmonica were truly jaw-dropping, and to think he is just as talented a piano player? You just gotta shake your head.
- The show was long, well over two hours. But I guess that's pretty typical.
Having said all that, I have to admit that this was probably one of my least favorite Flecktones shows. Maybe as an old traditional jazz guy, I just really missed Jeff, but something about not having a reed player severely limited the sonic palette for me. In my mind, after a while all the songs started to sound the same to me. It didn't help that the older stuff struck me as much more geared to the technical side, rather than the melodic side. Could be just what they chose to play, but much of it sounded like a lot of mixed meter stuff in search of a melody (*ducks*). I guess I just prefer the later, more melodic tunes like Big Country, Lover's Leap, and Puffy. And for some reason, I did not pick up on the normal playful attitude from the band. There wasn't a lot of interaction between the guys, musically or otherwise. Certainly not as much as I have seen in the past - maybe they are still recovering from Europe.
Obviously, this is just my opinion, and I'm probably going to be labeled a heretic - YMMV. I'm curious to hear the take of more seasoned fans who were in attendance. Perhaps it would have helped if I were familiar with the tunes going in?
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I don't want to say I am a seasoned veteran since I know there are a lot more seasoned folks than me out there and on this board. Apparently, I have been listening a little longer than you, however, as I became enthralled at "Three Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and then went backwards to see what I had been missing out on. Anyhow, I thought I would give a friendly chime-in as I was also at the Strathmore last night. What a fabulous place! And I was lucky enough to have had a ridiculously great seat so I got to see everything up close.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I had a blast. Don't get me wrong. I love Jeff Coffin. He is super-talented and wicked exciting. But, so too is Howard Levy - - as I witnessed last night. To me, hearing the original Flecktones was a special treat. It was something I never thought I would have the opportunity to see. True, it was different than hearing Jeff wail on the sax(es), but I found the tunes to be intricate, fun and groovy.
I am not calling you a heretic. I wouldn't do that. I think the difference between our experiences boils down to something you raised: being familiar with the older Flecktones' tunes. By no means could I name everything on the set list as they played it, but I was familiar with a majority of the songs from listening to them over the years, and, I admit, from the past couple weeks listening to the early Flecktones stuff to gear up for last night. I mean - - hearing/seeing "Sinister Minister," "Sunset Road," Flight of the Cosmic Hippo," and, even, "Michelle" performed by the original Flecktones was pretty darn cool. It was old school, and there was something really, really special about that, I thought.
Get this, Jeff is joining them again in December, as you probably know. And, they are playing almost every day next month. If you can catch them again, perhaps you'll have fun comparing the shows and, at the very least, you'll get your Jeff fix!
Last, I think the less interaction you mentioned must be the result of being tired. Their schedule just seems crazy!
Oh, yeah, what did you think of Bela's solo? A little "Throw Down Your Heart Action." That was cool.
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Wow!!! Great show. I need to say nothing more. Cant wait to see them again, and again and again. Always magical, something you cant see or hear everyday. These guys are blessed with a gift, as we are with being able to hear and listen to them. Great venue also, my brother-in law did the floors and trim, first time to see his work there. WOW
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I too was at the Strathmore show (driving up from Richmond) and enjoyed it thoroughly. This was my fourth time seeing the 'Tones and the first with Howard. Wow!!!! Howard would be a welcome addition to any band based on his keyboard skills alone, but his harmonica chops--move over, Toots Thielemans!!
The first time I saw the band was in late '93 at the Warner Theater in DC (circa '3 Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest), and I hadn't heard that Howard had left the band. I remember feeling disappointed at that realization when the show started, thinking "how can they make up as a trio for the loss of such an integral part of their sound?" But by the time they worked through a wonderful version of Chick Corea's "Spain" I was won over. The fact that they also got in a brief acoustic jam with the opening act, Danny Gatton (easily the best guitarist I've ever seen, one of my all-time favorites on the instrument, in the last performance of his I saw before his tragic suicide) made it a show I'll always remember.
Later shows at the BIrchmere with Sam Bush in '94 were a total treat.
I've never seen the band with Jeff Coffin, and I'm sure he adds a lot, so I can't really compare. But the 'Tones with Howard were very much how I first got into Bela, so the lineup holds a special place in my heart. Everyone played marvelously well, and as mentioned above, the venue is top-notch both sound-wise and in its beautiful wooden design. I agree that there was less stage banter than I remember from past shows. Bela asked Howard how he was feeling, and Howard responded "tall." Bela made note of a fan in the front row who had binoculars, and said they'd had Howard "on ice" for the past 17 years. That was about it for stage patter (of course, there was also the "Hippo" audience-participation instructions). But they let the music do the talking, and that was more than enough to keep my foot tapping and a wide grin on my face for two hours.
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I'm pretty sure I've told this story sometime ago on the old board. I had heard of the band quite a few years ago but for some reason went out of my way to avoid them; I thought it was some chick and her back-up singers. I should preface this by saying I have been into music for a really long time, growing up in NYC and being able to see the greats: Monk, Miles, Coltrane, etc. I'm also a sometimes jazz drummer. One night while watching PBS the announcer said "up next Bela Fleck and the Flecktones". I immediately reached for the remote but something stopped me and I said let me see what this band is all about. 15 minutes later my wife said to me "your jaw is hanging open!". I was truly blown away. It was the first music I had heard in so long that was truly new and different, not to mention great! That was right around the time that Jeff joined the group and Left of Cool was released. The next morning I went out and bought every Flecktones cd I could lay my hands on, so I was familiar with their older stuff as well as the new. I have seen the band about a dozen times since then traveling as far as Florida to see them (I live in NY), each time with Jeff playing. Last night I saw them in Peekskill with Howard Levy. I was just as thrilled as the first time I saw them with Jeff. You are right when you say the show is a little different but the music was staggering. The show leaned a little toward being the Howard Levy show but I don't think anyone had any complaints about that including the other band members. It is the respect and admiration they all have for each other that makes this band so great. It is indeed a blessing to be fortunate enough to see the caliber of musicianship these guys possess.
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I also hit up the Strathmore show. I am still in awe over the fact that these four guys are touring again. I must say I never expected to see them on stage together, but I'm so glad that I did. I went into the show knowing things would be a little different, but I was completely ready for whatever they were going to throw my way. It started off kind of slow, Frontiers is one of my favorites from the early stuff, but it seemed to lack a little bit live (which was a huge surprise to me, since it was high on my list of songs I couldn't wait to see). However, as the show went on, each song seemed to increase in complexity and energy. By the time Vic took his solo, I knew that even though it was completely different than the other 10 shows I'd seen with Jeff, it was still worth every penny.
Howard is nothing short of amazing, his piano & harp skills are second to none . . . not to mention the various other instruments he pulled out throughout the night. I was very happy to hear a few "Yee-Haws" during the Yee-Haw Factor, and I was even more happy to hear Michelle, such a beautiful rendition and it was the number one tune from the first three albums I was hoping to hear. But the highlight of the night was easily Sinister Minister (as if anything could top this one!). I haven't been around as long as most, but I am still surprised that in 8 years of seeing this band, I had yet to see this song live. It was such a treat to see it for the first time with the original four, the way they initially intended for it to be seen.
All in all, I was blown away, as expected. I also took 4 others with me who were fairly new to the Flecktones and they are still raving about it. Plus they still can't believe they got to meet the guys after wards (which, by the way, I asked Bela if this was a one time deal or if Howard would be back and he said "We'll probably do it again, we are just testing it out right now, seeing how it feels" . . . this gives me hope!).
Oh and cyberdale, I think we talked after the show was over. I was the big guy who came up and got the setlist right beside you. I only think it was you because you mentioned Danny Gatton and recommended that I look him up. If that was you, it was very nice to meet and chat with you for a while.
Oh and it is always good to catch up with Chard again. He did a hell of a job (as always).
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