In what has become an annual Olympics of sorts for NYC music lovers, Soulive kicked off their sixth annual eight show residency at Brooklyn Bowl, dubbed Bowlive VI, with Charles Bradley. Bowlive has become famous for special guest headliners and even more special surprise guests. This is the first year that it did not coincide with the Allman Bros. Beacon residency and standard sit-ins by the likes of Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, and Susan Tedeschi.
It was only fitting that local outfit WOLF!, consisting of band leader Scott Metzger (guitar, JRAD), Jon Shaw (bass), and Taylor Floreth (drums) opened the run in what may appear to be a passing of the torch of Brooklyn based rockers. Metzger awed the crowd with his shredding guitar solos and commanding stage presence as they rolled in with excitement for the main event. Before they left the stage, Metzger announced that they will be releasing their debut album this April on the Royal Potato label, with a record release party at Brooklyn’s Hometown BBQ April 2.
Soulive took the stage with just the three core members Eric Krasno (guitar), Alan Evans (drums), and Neal Evans (keyboard, organ) to lay down a couple of funky grooves to get the crowd ready for what was yet to come. The first guests of the evening, The Shady Horns – Ryan Zoidis (sax) and Eric Bloom (trumpet) – who will be sitting in all eight nights, came out for soulful renditions of “Hat Trick” and “Vapor.” After much anticipation, the 66-year-old Charles Bradley, who was unknown until 2011, strutted out in a silver sequin tank top blowing kisses to the crowd. Bradley has a voice and stage presence akin to James Brown, whom he impersonated as Black Velvet up until his solo career was propelled by Dap-Tone Records. He crooned three of his original tunes to end the first set: “Ain’t It A Sin,” “The World (Is Going Up In Flames),” and “Why Is It So Hard.”
The second set began like the first with the core three members taking the stage for a cover of the 1967 Jimi Hendrix tune “Manic Depression.” The Shady Horns were back out followed by Bradley and Metzger. Bradley took over again, pulling out some classic soul inspired dance moves as he fell to his knees with the mic stand raised high over his head. Bradley gave way to the first true surprise guest of Bowlive VI, Tash Neal (guitar, The London Souls) who closed the second set with The Beatles classic “Get Back.” The first night of Bowlive came to a close with two powerhouse guitarists on stage for a cover of Buddy Miles “Them Changes” with a mesmerizing solo by Neal.