Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Rev. Vince Anderson at Black Betty, Brooklyn NY 8/25/08

As regular readers of this space know, Rev. Vince Anderson is always found near the top of the regularly updated NYC live music calendar here. For what seems like an eternity, Anderson and his backup band the Love Choir have been playing a regular Monday night residency at Black Betty in Williamsburg. Since Anderson is a real minister, the weekly gig serves as both worship service (to the extent that it can, under the circumstances), and live rehearsal – although his bandmates are such good musicians, and know his material so inside-out that he can throw a new one at them every once in awhile knowing they won’t miss a beat. Anderson has been through several different incarnations (he went through a brief noir cabaret phase and then a long gypsy rock tangent), but since the start of the Black Betty residency he and his crew have become a jam band in the finest sense of the word. If the idea of going to see a jam band appeals to you about as much as a third term for George W. Bush, the Reverend will convert you. Forget for a second that Phish or Dave Matthews ever existed. 

 

They started out psychedelic. Anderson laid down a bluesy groove on his Nord Electro keyboard and the band launched into the swaying, wee-hours instrumental New Orleans, 4 AM. The horns got the solos. Trombonist Dave Smith is a purist, a real bluesman who makes every note count for something yet always manages to surprise, and his first solo of the night was an emphatic statement that said exactly that. With a wink and a grin, baritone saxist Paula Henderson (frontwoman of the delightful and paradigm-shifting dance instrumental trio Moisturizer) added color with a series of coy, fast flourishes. On the next song, Deep in the Water, from Anderson’s latest cd 100% Jesus, he toyed with his settings, eventually settling on a crazy, distorted tone that he used sparingly for some bright accents over the rhythm section’s undulating pulse. Bassist George Rush gave a clinic in how to jam out on a single chord for minutes on end without sounding wanky or obtrusive, and guitarist Jaleel Bunton played what might be the best solo he’s ever taken with this group, beautifully plaintive and terse. He’s discovered reverb, and it’s transformed his sound in this unit.

 

The hymn Precious Lord, Take My Hand was reinvented as a delirious barrelhouse stomp. Then Anderson played what might be his signature song, Get Out of My Way. The version on his second album has an eerie Balkan feel, reflecting what he was doing at the time. Since then, he’s recast it as a scorching funk jam and scaled back the lyrics: unless you know the original, it’s hard to hear this as gospel at all. Anderson got the crowd laughing when he introduced it, recalling how an audience member once took exception to it. “I really liked your set,” she told him, “But I don’t appreciate you yelling at me. [the lyric goes, ‘Get out of my way, I’ve got to praise my Lord today.’].”

 

After the heartwrenching ballad I Had a Ring in My Pocket, She Had Leaving on Her Mind, they did a brand-new one possibly titled Hard Time (as in “I had a hard time saying goodnight to you”), a real departure for Anderson set to a doo-wop melody as the early Beatles might have played it. By the time the band got to the fast, bruising blues Forgive Me, Anderson was crowdsurfing.

 

Considering how long the Rev. has been playing the dives of New York, the Lucid Culture crew have witnessed him live, cumulatively speaking, several dozen times. We’re talking at least sixty or seventy shows here, and this had to be one of the alltime top five. Vince Anderson is the Nolan Ryan of the gospel keyboard: after all these years, he still brings it, maybe better than ever, and maybe fifty pounds lighter than he was a couple of years ago. And the most heartwarming thing of all? The kids have discovered the Rev. Although there were a few grizzled faces among the crowd, this was one of the youngest audiences we’ve seen all year. Proof that the new generation hasn’t been hoodwinked into believing that they should have any interest in the French Kicks, the Ting Tings or the rest of their ilk. There’s new movement springing up right here, and it’s going to drive the money-changers out of the temple and open it up again for the rest of us. This guy’s as good a candidate as any to lead the charge. 

 

By the way – don’t let the religious nature of his lyrics scare you off. Anderson doesn’t proselytize: he’s aware that a sizeable percentage of his fan base are atheists.

August 28, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews

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