Photos by Jim Mimna
The Scene: A mixed bag of patrons shuffled into the venue, from young hipsters to seasoned Jazz fans to Funk lovers of all sorts; this crowd didn’t fit any standard stereotype or pigeonhole. The Ogden Theatre is one of, if not the best, mid-sized venues in Denver. But, unfortunately a flaw in one of AEG’s smaller venues has started to creep into this, their flagship house, too. I originally termed it the “Bluebird Effect,” which essentially is a darkly lit stage with no clean white light to see facial expressions or anything other than electric blue or blood red figures on a stage. With the current price of a ticket, the fans expect to have a visual memory of the person they just shelled out their hard-earned money to SEE, not just hear. Nowadays, if the band doesn’t bring their own lighting designer, their fans concert experience can be a dark, unclear thing.
Opener: Analog Son. Analog Son took the stage before a healthy crowd, which is no surprise as they have the buzz around town after just releasing their self-titled debut album. The dynamics they exercise in song structure come across perfectly in live performance, giving the audience a real taste of the new material and their approach to present it. The band is anchored by Jordan Linit, Josh Fairman, and George Horn; but, much like the album, pulls from the rich music community they are rooted in so deeply to fill in the remaining spots with a rotating cast of the best this scene has to offer.
As the band’s set unfolded, the one constant on the stage was soul. You could feel it building in the bombastic bass lines Fairman laid down as the foundation for the house of Funk and Horn on drums was just the framework needed to cement the rhythm section. Linit’s guitar work became the exterior bricks and some of the most technically impressive licks were laid down while still staying fresh and original, not letting the song blueprints dictate his creative direction one bit. The keys were played by veteran Eric Gunnison and really anchored the sound, bonding it all together like finishing nails. Filling in the vocal spot was the lovely Kim Dawson who added the final element to the house of Funk: a roof of pure Soul which she promptly blew right off! Her singing was nearly as nasty and raucous as it was beautiful and powerful.
The minute Analog Son hit the stage, the place started jumping. The energy coming off the stage was the 8th member of the band the whole set and never quit pumping till the last note. Judging by the out of control dancing and boisterous cheers, the audience dug the set and found a new band to put on the short list of must-see acts. One thing is for sure, when these guys construct their house of Funk, it ain’t no cookie cutter in a subdivision. Analog Son builds a new Soul structure every time, making each performance unique.
Snarky Puppy: Given Snarky Puppy’s recent Grammy win and the general consensus of past shows being “can’t-miss events,” I was excited for this show. The band took the stage with what appeared to be a poor turnout, and I can’t help but wonder how poor it would have been without the support of the opening act. That said, I have seen some incredible shows with lackluster attendance, so I didn’t dwell on this factor long.
As the band took the stage, the first thing I could feel in the room was deflation. Simply put the energy Analog Son had flooded the building with was gone! It was like the live band had left and they had been replaced by a record player. I know some bands need a song or two to warm up, so I waited and I waited, but they just never really showed up. Despite the well-polished and extremely rehearsed sound of the band, I felt like the music had no soul. The musical acumen of each member was obvious, as was their mastering of the material and all its intricacies, but yet I felt there was no creativity on stage at all. As someone who has covered his fill of Colorado Symphony concerts, where the polish is top notch and the script determines the flow of the music with absolutely zero improvisation, I felt a similar vibe with Snarky Puppy, and that’s not a feeling I embrace in a band on this level.
From a purely technical standpoint the band was 100% there and as far as I could tell performed a flawless set. But, unfortunately, it was like a band of robots performed it. The human element was gone and the machine gave us a cold, uninspired regurgitation of the songs they have been programmed to play. The creativity that inspires a crowd left the stage with the supporting act, and led me to ponder why the lineup was not flipped. Sadly, the only answer I can find to that question was a Grammy win and the subsequent hype that follows.
Editor’s Note: The rating below is no reflection on Analog Son, but rather Snarky Puppy as the headlining act.
Stage Presence: C
Set/Light Show: D