The idea of seeing the James Brown Band without James Brown—who passed away a decade ago—seemed admittedly somehow strange. Wasn’t James Brown the crucial piece of the outfit? Short of 2012 Coachella Tupac hologram-style shenanigans, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turns out, the James Brown Band, which is decidedly not a mere tribute band—the core ensemble composed of the last band with which James Brown toured—brought a level of energy and funk that that paid fitting homage to the late great Godfather of Soul.
The band took the audience on a tour of Brown’s greatest and most recognizable hits spanning his entire career, from “Get Up Offa That Thing” to “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine.” There were plenty of provocations to get up going around, but the crowd didn’t need to be asked twice. From the moment the first horns came in, a massive dance party at the front of the stage erupted. I was given privileged access to scenes of some of the worst white dancing I have seen in my life. (Though I must admit, I cannot deny that I wasn’t complicit in certain atrocities of my own.)
No one artist took it upon themselves to fill the massive shoes of James Brown. Several vocalists took turns, including Charleston’s own Elise Testone (you might remember her from the eleventh season of American Idol), who performed a moving rendition of “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.” Also joining the ensemble were George Porter Jr. of The Meters fame, who laid down some truly meaty bass, and Ivan Neville of Dumpstaphunk shredding the keys. The band was composed of accomplished and highly technically skilled musicians who each could have held their own even without their association with James Brown.
The James Brown Band laid out a truly energized, fun and imminently groovable night of peak-funk performances from each of the members of the outfit and shaping a night that was an exceptional tribute worthy of the man whose name the band bears.
Written by Ryan Tully