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Wednesday, September 28

Show Review: Robert Randolph and the Family Band - 9/23/2011- Cleveland, OH- House of Blues

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Robert Randolph and the Family Band . . . All Grown Up
If life is a road-trip, Robert Randolph and the Family Band have sure driven a long way. At a recent House of Blues show in Cleveland, a solid crowd bared witness to the fruits of that journey and enjoyed an American gospel, funk and soul revival.
Back in 2006, I first saw the band as they stormed past me and the rest of the crowd working their way to the stage. The theatrics of that arrival were proper because they fairly announced that the band had arrived – a sentiment backed by their music.
This “family” of musicians welcomes new fans to their family as easily as Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie welcome new children to theirs. A Randolph concert is a lot like a George Clinton concert . . . or a Jimmy Buffett concert . . . or a Dave Matthews concert. The people in attendance know they are part of something unique and there is a real connection to the artist. It is when you feel like you know the band . . . you are part of the band . . . and everyone around you is sharing in the excitement with you. My first Randolph concert at the historic Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland was just the beginning of my musical love affair that grows today.
For the House of Blues show, a more refined Randolph was joined on guitar by cousin Joey Williams of Blind Boys of Alabama; his sister, powerful back-up singer Lenesha Randolph, and keyboardist and guitarist Brett Andrew. When this talented threesome is now teamed up with the original Family Band line-up; drummer Marcus Randolph, bass guitarist Danyel Morgan, the result is a powerful sound that screams, “Can I get an Amen!”
Kicking off the night was “Good Times”, another highlight was “If I Had  My Way” with Doobie Brothers cover “Black Water” combo. Then, always one to share the party, Randolph was casual as he invited female concert attendees on-stage to “Shake Your Hips.” The energy kept building through an outstanding rendition of “Ted’s Jam”, and the evening truly became a religious “experience” thanks to a spot-on cover of Jimmy Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” One could imagine Hendrix on his knees leaning back to absorb the homage.
As with any family event, there are always going to be many opinions and attendees had plenty of songs to voice as their favorite. An encore of “Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That” summed it up best – “That” was a great show.
Randolph and his Family Band have managed to retain a palpable sincerity and passion for their craft and it has become an endearing trait for the crowd. For those that have been along for a lot of the journey, they can easily see the growth, the impact of new pieces to the puzzle, and how a vigorous performance schedule has made the band ready and battle tested.
There is no doubt Randolph is here to stay . . . the exciting part is to see what he will do next.
Words: Chris Matthews, MadMatts Promotions, Cleveland, Ohio
Photos: Michael Stein of www.michaelsteinphotography.com