Soulive at Higher Ground, South Burlington, Vermont

Doug Collette By

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Higher Ground Ballroom
South Burlington, Vermont
December 13, 2014

Strikingly reminiscent of the Lettuce show October 25 2014, Soulive's extended single set at Higher Ground this night took flight during a blazing solo by guitarist Eric Krasno. It wasn't the only such instance that occurred during the two-hours plus the trio occupied the stage—another cam shortly after when Krasno and keyboardist Neal Evans engaged in some extremely intense interplay—but it was evidence of how Soulive's benefiting from the three musicians' other projects of late.

Until recently drummer Alan Evans has led his own three piece group Playonbrother, nee The Alan Evans Trio, while his partners are integral members in the aforementioned powerhouse called Lettuce, and like that latter group when they appeared in this venue's Ballroom, Soulive sounded like a markedly different unit at various junctures during the evening, offering a string of surprises even to fans who've followed them for a lengthy period of time (they've been making regular stops at Higher Ground for upwards of fifteen years).

There was, of course, plenty of funky music to keep the audience on the main floor undulating, but whether in fleet flinty syncopation or furious groove interludes, this style bonded more diverse sounds rendered just as skillfully. A take on the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," culled from the covers album Rubber Soulive (Royal Family. 2010) was ample change of pace in itself, but, after some well-wrought exploration of McCartney's famous melody, Krasno led his bandmates into Jimi Hendrix "Third Stone from the Sun," which is where the fiery exchange with Evans occurred.

The latter didn't get to solo as often as the guitarist rightly positioned stage center, but when he did, he took Soulive into spaces they did not otherwise penetrate. Supplying keyboard bass insured the trio had plenty of bottom whether or not is was below his array of electric instruments including clavinet, but it was Evan's use of traditional Hammond B-3 sounds that truly transformed the trio: at those moments they didn't just hearken to the intimacy of Fifties organ ensembles a la Jimmy Smith, but their own roots as a group. Soulive is no less proud of their influences now than when they first began playing this venue and in fact may be even more so in proportion to the wider array they incorporate into their sound.

The alternately cacophonous, majestic encore of another Beatles tunes, "I Want You (She's so Heavy)," reminded wha a special pleasure it is to follow a band as it evolves and grows. Recalling Soulive's earliest appearances at Higher Ground's original location when they were decked out in suits and ties, the uniquely individual attire they boasted this wintry night—Alan Evans in stylish vest and fedora perhaps the most eye-catching—prompts the thought their style(s) of dress are simply outward manifestation of their musical maturity into distinctly personal style.

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