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Monday, June 28, 2010

Robert Randolph and The Family Band w/ Kings Go Forth @ Summerfest

June 27, 2010

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It was retro night at Summerfest’s Brigg’s and Stratton stage Sunday night, with two heavy hitting revival acts, Kings Go Forth and Robert Randolph and The Family Band, competing to see who could get the crowd moving. Both succeeded.

Kings Go Forth assuredly enjoyed the best summer from a Milwaukee-based band last year, releasing their debut, The Outsiders Are Back, on David Byrne’s label Luaka Bop. So, it was fitting to see them atop a Summerfest main stage, where they wooed existing fans and garnered many new ones. If there ever was an argument that more local groups should open for headliners, it was on stage Sunday night. The ten-piece ensemble sounded refreshing despite their foundation in ’70s soul.

On a night lead singer Black Wolf declared Milwaukee the world’s new soul capital, it seemed like a struggle to pick up the audience from just bopping their heads on the benches. Wolf and company would eventually succeed, however, bringing them to their feet while burning through “Now We’re Gone,” showing off their pitch-perfect three-part harmonies on “High on Your Love,” and closing their set with their biggest hit, “One Day.” If these guys weren’t winning over the crowd with their music, it must have been with their uncanny enthusiasm. Wolf strutted across the stage like a man possessed, pointing out people and saying, “I see you.” We see you, too. And we like what we see.

Robert Randolph followed with an impressive set that mainly flaunted his pedal steel chops. Nobody else makes the pedal steel look as cool as Randolph. Firing through blues riffs, he evokes guitar masters Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix.

Whether it’s getting the crowd to do his favorite dance move or sitting back on his seat and clapping his hands and feet simultaneously in the air, Randolph was engaged throughout the show. Though the jam band influence was unmistakable as he stretched songs out for ages, his hit single “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” diverged from that enduring structure and was ripped through quickly and most satisfyingly. One let down, however, was the absence of his live staple “Shake Your Hips” from the set, meaning the normal cavalcade of women in the audience didn’t get a chance to shake it up on stage. Oh well, there was enough dancing off-stage to suffice.

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