Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Beast & Big Band flex musical muscles at Motorco

Photos by Kevin Norris
The Duke Performances 2012 Music in Gardens series kicked off last night with The Beast and Big Band in Durham but sadly, the show was relocated to Motorco Music Hall due to rain earlier in the day. Even though the show wasn't at the fantastic Duke Gardens, the show was none-the-less a fantastic way to start the series.

The Beast made the show special by bringing along eight additional musicians bringing the total number onstage to twelve. While the use of the extra musicians started out a little odd with an extra long version of "Four Seasons" featuring long musical passages highlighting the additional players, things locked into place throughout the rest of the set with the brass, strings, guitar and percussion enhancing the band's sound and making the show a ton of fun.

Pierce Freelon is a hell of a frontman. He exudes energy and swagger on stage. He had a group of young ladies in the front row eating out of the palm of his hand throughout the set as they squealed at almost every mention of Durham (and there were a lot).

The show got political when the band played the song "My People" from WKNC's 2009 Hear Here compilation. The song was reworked a bit to make it about repealing Amendment One which passed by a considerable margin in last month's election.

Cellist Shana Tucker stepped forward to deliver fantastic vocals on the Mos Def song "UMI Says."

An improv piece in the middle of the set highlighted the individual skill of each player which included a freestyle rap by Freelon, the subject of which was the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Those familiar with the band know that he likes pop culture references, many of which were heard in the set including the TV show Boy Meets World and chicken franchise Bojangles.

The band ended the night with another jam featuring solos by each player which was anchored by an odd little vocoder bits of the song "Pure Imagination" from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The band showed off their stuff once more, and there stuff was quite good.

The Beast are a versatile band that reach far beyond the confines of typical hip-hop and jazz, which makes for an entertaining show. The Big Band raised the bar high for the band. Let's hope that they collaborate again for future shows or maybe even album, which would be fantastic.

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