New Mastersounds funky beyond words — and sleep
When the New Mastersounds finished up a hundred-minute set just shy of midnight on Wednesday, the band members had been awake for around 24 hours. They had risen in the early English morning and arrived at the Manchester airport, only to find that their flight had been canceled, which left them scrambling to find another. They finally piled out of a van in front of the Paradise about an hour behind schedule. A mere 15 minutes after that, they took the stage, with drum kit and organ rig borrowed from opening funk-rock act Otis Grove, to play a set that turned out to be as frenetic and exhausting for the crowd as the band’s day had presumably been for them.
On record, the New Mastersounds have covered a fair bit of ground and thrown plenty of wrinkles into the funk-soul-jazz stew they’ve been cooking over the past decade. Live, though, it was basically one extended variation on a groove, from the mid-tempo stutter of “Miracles’’ that kicked things off to the extended guitar-organ back and forth of “The Vandenburg Suite,’’ the syncopated groove of “Baby Bouncer,’’ and right on through to the JB funk/soul-jazz mash-up of “Carrot Juice.’’ But for one of the new songs the band played (the anthemic “Take What You Need’’), it was an all-instrumental affair; the only other time the microphones set up on stage were used for something other than conversational purposes was when the band punctuated each turnaround with a shouted “Bam!’’ during a take on “Make Me Proud!’’ that, thanks to its pronounced Bo Diddley beat, was even more propulsive live than it is on record.
No words, no matter; the groove was the thing and no slow songs the order of the day. The crowd responded to the band’s stretched-out, hard-driving jams by turning itself into a sweating, gyrating mess for the duration. The band’s a mere four-piece, but from the anchor provided by bassist Pete Shand and the inventive, pounding force of his low-end partner, Simon Allen, on drums, to the phenomenal Jimmy Nolen-cum-Wes Montgomery guitar work of Eddie Roberts and the slash and swirl of Joe Tatton’s organ and Moog lines, Wednesday’s show was a working definition of ferocious, in-the-pocket playing. Lord knows what the New Mastersounds would be capable of with a decent night’s sleep.
Stuart Munro can be reached at email@example.com.