in performance: randall bramblett

randall bramblett.

Let’s get the nasty part of the evening out of the way first.

Last night, Willie’s Locally Known became a sports bar – a surprising and disagreeable turn for those who plunked down a cover charge to hear a Randall Bramblett concert that was to have started at 9:30 at what they thought was a live music venue. Instead, Willie’s held off on showtime until after the demoralizing end of the Kentucky-Florida football game, sending the paid attendees into an at-times vocal furor that included a nearly five minute protest of clapping and jeering for the show to start at its appointed hour. That prompted Bramblett to personally apologize to patrons at each table for a delay he was in no way responsible for.

Priorities, people. If you’re running a business, know your clientele and then respect it. On all counts last night, Willie’s, normally a reliable and relaxing music spot, dropped the ball.

Now, on to the highlight reel. Once Bramblett and his remarkably resourceful band hit the stage at 11:10, the evening couldn’t miss. Out of a venue fumble came a performance touchdown by way of a two hour run of world class funk, soul, blues and swing from one of the most alert Southern songsmiths of our day.

Opening with “Pot Hole on Main Street,” the first of four tunes pulled from the new “Juke Joint at the Edge of the World” album, Bramblett set into motion a groove built around a churchy organ-style groove and a tenor sax break sent into exquisite distortion by pedal effects. “Garbage Man,” another “Juke Joint” entry, followed by utilizing the band’s other primary soloist, guitarist Nick Johnson, and a Fender Rhodes-flavored keyboard run from Bramblett. The latter’s sly word play also earned bonus points for rhyming “Simon and Garfunkel” with “cry uncle.”

From there, the quartet – keenly rounded out by bassist Michael Steele and drummer Seth Hendershot – shuffled boppish glee (during “Used to Rule the World”), brassy swing (“Reptile Pilot”), falsetto-savvy soul (“Angel Child”), jazzy playfulness (“King Grand”) and, in the closest thing the show presented to a ballad, disquieting reflection (“Detox Bracelet”).

That it was all presented with a band sound as immaculately tight or confidently loose as the song at hand called for was a testament to the players’ collective instrumental smarts. That such command was then executed with a sense of abundant performance fun and animation in the face of an evening that, given its start, could have dissolved into irretrievable chaos, revealed Bramblett and his bandmates as total champions.


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