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Arts and Entertainment

Soulive @ The Knitting Factory, 1/19/08

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Eric Krasno (Guitar), Neal Evans (Hammond Organ) and Alan Evans (drums, not pictured) Collectively Known as Soulive Moved the Knitting Factory Crowd Saturday Night

Every January, organ trio, Soulive heads out to Southern California for The NAMM Show. While the trio of Eric Krasno, Neal Evans and Alan Evans take part in the gathering of music industry professionals, they also book themselves a few concerts in Anaheim and Los Angeles to give the SoCal Soulive heads a taste of their trademark jazzy funk sound.

On Saturday, the brothers Evans and Kraz put on a fantastic set before a jam packed Knitting Factory. I walked into the Hollywood venue thinking this would be the first time I would witness Soulive as a quartet, unfortunately Toussaint, the vocalist who was added to the band for their 2007 release No Place Like Soul was not in attendance. Also missing on Saturday was the band's horn section.

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Soulive, however, did not seem to miss a beat. I was very impressed with Saturday's show which was my first time seeing the band stripped down to the core trio. In fact, I might go as far as to say that this set was one of my favorite Soulive performances I have ever seen.

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DJ Medi4 served as our opening act. Spinning old school soul and funk records, Medi4 properly warmed the crowd up. By the time the headliners hit the stage, everyone was ready to greet them with their energy and bouncing heads.

Yes, I said bouncing their heads. Soulive crowds don't really dance, the nod their heads and move in their general area without really taking their eyes off of the stage. The reason for this might be the show's rapid pace. To keep up with the quick switching songs, blending of phrases, improvised jams and various covers of classics and obscure jams, its almost impossible to take your eyes off of the artistry on stage.

The set kicked off with "Tuesday Night's Squad," a staple of Soulive shows. From there, the show went in several different directions. The trio took it back with some of their old school funk while mixing in covers from the likes of James Brown and Bob Marley and busting out a track or two I have never heard.

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One of the best things about seeing the band live is getting to witness their ability to communicate without saying anything. When you see any other band perform, you'll see a lot of chatter under the sound of the music. Soulive however seems to have an ability to read each other without saying a word. Alan on the drums seems to know exactly where his brother on the organ/bass is going with his solos. I guess that's what happens when you've spent your entire lives together.

Nobody brings more energy to the Hammond Organ, than Neal. Nobody. Neal plays the organ as if it was a percussion instrument, banging on the keys, sometimes with his entire forearm. It's difficult to take your eyes of his performance. The highlight of the night was Neal's lengthy solo performance. About an hour into the show, Alan and Eric took a step back and let Neal go. Mixing in a vast array of robotic sounding chords, Neal's solo was an onslaught of sounds and grooves similar to a DJ blending dance records.

I have grown accustomed to seeing Soulive alongside a special guest for each of their LA shows, the likes of Stevie Wonder and Chaka Kahn have sat in on previous performances. On this night however, there would be no special guest taking the mic.

While the show may have lacked guests with star power, a horn section and their recently named vocalist, the show did not lack the funk and soul that have made Soulive a must-see every time they roll into our neck of the woods.

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Photos by Tim Hammer for LAist