It’s easy to see why the New Orleans-based Soul Rebels would be an obvious choice to headline an annual three-night residency at Brooklyn Bowl – the popular Williamsburg music venue is almost as well known for it’s Louisiana-leaning Blue Ribbon restaurant fare as it is for its bowling lanes. While it’s not unusual for New Orleans artists to play at the Bowl, the wall-to-wall sell-out crowd that showed up on Saturday night suggested that the Soul Rebels have established a reputation for being a “can’t miss” event among their fervent and impressively sizable NYC fan base. Their exhilarating 90-minute set proved this impression to be accurate – and deservedly so.
The Soul Rebels are an eight-piece brass band who juxtaposes their original funk-inspired material with re-imagined covers of popular R&B and hip-hop tunes. What was evident from the start is that, aside from being expert players, this is a band who knows their audience; they understand that to keep the party going, they’ve got to give the people what they like. The first half of the show interspersed infectious versions of songs from the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Hall and Oats, making the masses of 20 (and some early 30) something hipster Brooklynites bounce and flail with delight. Pulling triple-duty as bandleader/player/hype man, saxophonist Erion Williams kept a pulse on the crowd, calling cues to the band as needed to make sure the endorphin waves kept rolling. Their delivery was tight but not so clean as to lack grease, and one got the distinct feeling that this group gets its thrill from orchestrating strategic chaos.
Special guest Roy Hargrove sat in on trumpet for part of the second half, featuring as soloist on several songs during a D’Angelo/Marvin Gaye medley that reached its peak with an aggressively sultry take on Sexual Healing. This provided the perfect set-up for the rousing finale, which included their original song (and unofficial party anthem) 504 and closed out with a rip-roaring, booty-shaking rendition of Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk. With that, the Soul Rebels demonstrated that they also understand a basic truth that most bands strive toward but don’t always achieve: it isn’t enough for a band to just give the audience what they want – they need to leave them screaming for more.
For further information about The Soul Rebels and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Show Me What You Got here: