Galactic @ Concord Music Hall

Show Review: Galactic @ Concord Music Hall, Chicago – Friday, February 6th 2015

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Galactic is more than a band from New Orleans; they are New Orleans.  Choose any music style from the Nola and they do it.  They play with New Orleans heavy hitters, from Mystikal and Big Freedia, to Allen Toussaint and Trombone Shorty. 

They’ve even been on the hit HBO show “Treme”.  They have a revolving lineup of musicians that make each show seem like you’re sneaking into a legendary jam session; it feels like a unique evening that will never happen again.  As I’ve seen them do before, Galactic take the patrons of Concord Music Hall from a cold, early February evening in Chicago to a sizzling night out in the depths of the French Quarter…and beyond.

The opener, Monophonics, were excellent.  Setting the tone for the evening, they wailed rowdy piano tunes that got the audience feeling’ alright (they’ll be back April 11th at Martyr’s).  Keeping the momentum up, a second line of musicians roamed the crowd and got everyone in the Mardi Gras spirit.  Random people dancing?  Check.  Booze flowing like water?  Check.  Trombones and trumpets everywhere?  Fuckin’ right, wodie.  Yup, this was a Galactic show, alright!

Although it was a shame to see Maggie Koerner depart from Galactic’s core lineup, (Ben Ellman on harps and horns, Robert Mercurio on bass, Stanton Moore on drums and percussion, Jeff Raines on guitar, Rich Vogel on keyboards, and Corey Henry on trombone), the boys replaced her with another great female vocalist, Erica Falls, a New Orleans native.  This, of course, is a regular occurrence for a band that seems to have a contact list containing every musician on Earth.

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Right out of the gate, Galactic jammed furiously on “Boban” before launching into their latest single, “Higher and Higher”.  Although the album version features raspy male vocalist J.J. Grey of Mofro, Erica Falls had no trouble countering with a gritty performance of her own.  Pacing the stage like a lioness and singing like it was her last day on Earth, Falls reminded everyone right away where she was from.  The band seemed to enjoy re-covering recently covered songs “Hard Times” and “I Can’t Stand the Rain” (recently covered by John Legend and Seal respectively) and, as usual, brought them to another dimension.  it is as if they New Orlean-ize every piece of music that they touch.

Hey Na Na” did not get the crowd response that my friend Matt and I expected, so we took it upon ourselves to help Galactic out with the crowd response portion, dancing wildly and chanting “Hey Na Na Na Hey Na, Hey Na Na Na HEEEEEEEEEEY!!!!  (It should be noted that we also continued this LONG after the show was over).  Galactic played some of their other classics like “Heart of Steel” and “Dolla Diva” while mixing up the pace all night.  Trombone player, Corey Henry, looked crazy as always and played with tommy-gun-like precision.  Stanton Moore, a personal hero of mine, kept the drum beats groovy and the drum solos plentiful.  Horns blazing and the band as tight as always, Galactic was in top form.

Although it seemed that the crowd was not as familiar with their music, there was no question that everyone was having a great time.  Bros hugging everywhere, plastic cups toasting, and drunken chicanery abounding tells me that Galactic had completed the job they set out to do: kick off Mardi Gras in Chicago.  If nothing else, I know I have accomplished my goal of pretending I was in New Orleans for the evening.  I made a lot of friends, I danced my ass off and I only remembered what songs Galactic played from a picture on my phone, courtesy of the random girl who got the setlist after the show.  “I have boobs, I win!” she proudly proclaimed, explaining to a crowd near the stage that this was her secret weapon in obtaining the souvenir.

Hard to argue with that logic, especially on the opening night of Mardi Gras.

Written by Fusion Alternative Blogger: Jason Polakowski