How do they do it? Three guys in suits rock all night

at Starr Hill Music Hall
Sunday, October 27, 2002

The first time Soulive came to perform in Charlottesville, they were the new kids on the block. The trio of drums, guitar, and organ had just started making a name for themselves in their hometown of New York and were hoping to extend their successes beyond the northeast region.

That first performance was over a year and a half ago. Thinking back, I can remember the venue only about half full. Soulive rocked that crowd of 150 people so hard that folks were talking about the show for weeks. Their performance at that gig earned them a spot performing with DMB at the Scott Stadium show and top billing at the private after-the-show party.

Since then, Soulive pretty much has taken top billing as the top jazz act on the east coast. Their most recent albums have been released on prestigious Blue Note Records, they have recorded 12" singles with über rappers Talib Kweli and Black Thought (The Roots), and they've sold out venues from Maine to San Francisco.

On Sunday, October 27, Soulive returned to Starr Hill to a sold-out house and a crowd who knew them very well. It still amazes me that a trio of that make-up can rock a house all night without the music getting stale.

There is only so much that can be done with drums, bass, and a Hammond B3. Although Soulive definitely have a formula to their songwriting– introduce melody, drop beat, bring it down, solo, long build up, come full circle to the melody; repeat-­ they never lose the intensity, keeping the audience, myself included, totally in a trance for two and a half hours without a set break.

After they laid it on the crowd heavy at the onset, the middle of the show took a turn to a mellower feel. Although some of the slower tunes would have gone over better in a more intimate setting, the lull was merely the calm before the storm.

When things picked up, they stayed up. It's still hard to believe that three people can rock that hard dressed in suits. The highlight of the evening was probably the last two songs they played. The first was a beautiful ballad for guitar that had the remaining loyalists in a trance. Lastly, a semi-haunting number morphed itself into something very spiritual-­ so spiritual, in fact, that all I could do was stand there in the middle of the room with a blank stare on my face trying to hold the moment as long as I could.