In Focus: Neal Francis at Ridgefield Playhouse

On July 6, funk keyboardist Neal Francis brought a mixture of blues and rock-laced syncopation to Ridgefield Playhouse. The Saturday show brought folks together from across the tri-state area, treating concert-goers to a thrilling show in the small town of Ridgefield, CT. 

With shaggy hair and striped pants, Neal Francis graced the stage. Accompanied by bassist Mike Starr, drummer Collin O’Brien, and guitarist Kellen Boersma, the band approached the audience. The show in Ridgefield marked their third day of back-to-back shows. Nevertheless, it was hard to tell based on their electrifying performance.

Francis and his band are currently in the middle of a U.S. tour, with a mix of headline shows and opening sets. Most recently he opened for Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue as well as KALEO and My Morning Jacket. The Connecticut show, however, was one of a select few without an opener, making the show extremely personal and to the point. Next, they’re off to Winnipeg, Canada on June 13th, after which they take a short break until their return to the east coast in August.

The show immediately started with dynamically composed arrangements, however staying true to the nature of live music, Francis had to fix some technical issues from his pedals. Despite any malfunctions, he commanded the band to give a beat, making sure the music never stopped while he got to work on his rig. The dedication that the band displayed to keep the audience grooving exhibited true showmanship.

Being that Ridgefield Playhouse is a smaller room in the middle of a small town, the energy was more like that of a party, rather than a concert. Francis was able to communicate with the audience giving the environment such strong personableness. Everyone was excited to be there, whether they traveled for it or were just checking out a cool show nearby. Regardless, the crowd was brought together by their excitement and love for the music.

The versatility of the show also made for an outstanding experience. Francis of course gracefully tackled his hits, but not without playing some unfamiliar tunes. Everyone in the auditorium got to witness songs that only those with the honor of seeing Francis live receive. This emphasized the importance of live music and the role it plays in bringing fans and artists together. The songs all included rhythmic breakdowns. The expansion of the music continued to produce unique renditions special to the live show.

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