In Focus: Melvin Seals and JGB recruit John Kadlecik and George Porter for a night at Brooklyn Bowl

Photos by Zach Belfer

The Brooklyn Bowl was treated to a double bill on Friday, October 11 as George Porter Jr. and his trio opened for Melvin Seals and JGB feat. John Kadlecik. Along with Michael Lemmler on keyboards and Terrence Houston on drums, the ageless and eponymous GPJ’s bass and vocals led the way for a 75-minute opening set of NOLA funk. The Meter’s “Cissy Strut,” something of a New Orleans anthem, was an authentic offering with signature bass lines and what sounded like a beautiful jazz bar piano interlude thanks to Lemmler’s keyboards. Terrence Houston is an eye catching drummer, delicate when necessary but constantly energetic, somewhere at the nexus of jazz and funk. And for a band that improvises to the point of not even writing setlists, “They Love Each Other,” led by Porter’s bass solos and deep gravelly voice, was the perfect choice to get the crowd ready for Melvin, a perfect funk salad of Jerry tunes whetting our collective palate for the main course.

Taking the stage promptly at 9:30pm, Melvin Seals and JGB feat. John Kadlecik opened with a gorgeous “How Sweet It Is.” John-Paul McLean is a worthy bassist with the chops to take impressive solos and the rhythm section of he and Pete Lavezzoli that impressed all night. Vocalists Mary eL and Lady Chi lit up the stage and their playful back and forth with Melvin is fun to watch. But there’s a reason the big man on the keys and organ gets his name on the marquee, lighting up the Brooklyn Bowl with joy every time he took a solo on the Hammond B3. Largely due to the 18 years he spent playing with the Jerry Garcia Band, his playing just feels so familiar and authentic, bringing joy in spades, spread in a wide arc from the huge smile he always wears.

A tasty “After Midnight” > “Eleanor Rigby” > “After Midnight” sandwich, made famous by the JGB release of the Kean College show from 2/28/80, highlighted why John Kadlecik’s name now shares said marquee with Melvin. To think that earlier in the night someone was overheard saying Kadlecik’s voice is okay but he can’t play guitar… “Wonderful World” ensued and the love fest was on, at least until “Get Out Of My Life Woman” conflicted the love story woven through the early part of the setlist. Melvin really shone on that one, not to be outdone by a gorgeous bass solo from McLean. “I’ll Take A Melody” again gave the spotlight back to Kadlecik before a rollicking “Cumberland Blues.” 

Melvin took lead vocals for the only time of the night on Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” followed by “Lonesome and a Long Way From Home,” the second Eric Clapton song of the evening (if you count “After Midnight,” a song popularized by Clapton but written by JJ Cale). “Lucky Old Sun” provided a nice bathroom break, an idea apparently shared by most of the sold-out but comfortably crowded venue, and gave others a chance to relocate, particularly stage right to enjoy the show from right under Melvin’s Hammond and soak in his joy from up close. “Sisters and Brothers” dutifully brought the dance party back before the set closing sequence of “Help on the Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Terrapin Jam” > “Midnight Moonlight” which inspired some hair raising goosebumps and left the crowd feeling jubilant. 

All these cats can really play. What a pleasure it was to join them and dance it up (16,854 steps) as they took JGB’s catalog out for a two-hour stroll through the Brooklyn Bowl.

Setlist: How Sweet It Is, After Midnight, Wonderful World, Get Out Of My Life Woman, I’ll Take A Melody, Cumberland Blues, Knocking On Heaven’s Door, Lonesome And A Long Way From Home, That Lucky Old Sun, Sisters & Brothers, Help On The Way > Slipknot! >Terrapin Jam > Midnight Moonlight