Roof Stays Put at Randolph

On Wednesday, January 11th the Memorial Auditorium saw the likes of Robert Randolph and the Family Band for the first time. After only a couple years on the jam circuit Robert has quickly built his name as some sort of a freak mad scientist on the steel pedal-getting signed to a major record label, be enlisted in Rolling Stone’s top 100 greatest guitar players of all time, and most recently playing on the Grammys. One thing always remains clear, after seeing him eight times he indeed has some serious chops and a whole lot fire in his pants-hands down, Randolph is a performer. The only problem is that is really put to question is how far do chops and fire dig into one’s soul?

There is no doubt that Robert and his band are off the hook. They certainly have their own take on gospel funk fusion, but they have a repertoire that is in serious need of expansion. The band played most of their staples, “I don’t know what you come to do,” “I Need More Love,” “Nobody,” and the classic “Purple Haze,” cover-which all rub down the ear drums of introductory Randolph listeners, but tend to lose their power on one who has seen more than three or four shows.

It was nice to see new keys player Jason Crosby add some new elements to the band, with his violin, but still, more needs to be done. Randolph also played more electric guitar at this show-not verynecessary since people come to watch him play the steel pedal, his forte–and at one point showcased all of the band’s multi-talents when they switched instruments on, “I don’t know what you come to do.” It was also enjoyable to see a new cover thrown in the mix, Michael Jackson’s “Get Enough,” with the accompaniment of the O.A.R sax player who surprisingly was a lot better than I had expected. When he played he added a Branford Marsalis feel to the mix, similar to when he used to sit in with The Dead, but on a reasonably lesser scale.

Yet in the end, the Randolph show is very comparable to a carnival. After one goes on the rides a few times, the excitement tends to lessen and lessen. Sometimes the carnival needs a new roller coaster, or a couple new roller coasters for that matter to keep the park exciting, and evolving. When a band stops musically growing and expanding, its sound becomes stale and manufactured. If Robert Randolph ever wants to make it from good to great then his shows will have to serve as more than a fun time. He has the ability to be mind altering, and soul affecting; he just needs to dig a little deeper for it.