Andre Cymone, True Groove Allstars, And Kellindo Parker At Bowery Electric, Friday, August 4th, 2017, Reviewed
I don’t know who does the booking at Bowery Electric, but whoever it is earned their paycheck last night, with two acts of musical miscegenation broken up with a Clash mutated into Funkadelic. In other words, an evening of black guitar rock and roll like we don’t get anymore.
Bassist Andre Cymone is ground zero for the Prince legend, not only did Cymone’s mom all but adopt Prince when he was having problems at home, but Andre and Prince were roommates, formed their first band with Morris Day in High School, and Andre played bass in the earliest Prince incarnation. But, unlike the Revolution, Cymone is not interested in pilfering from Prince’s legend, so late in Cymone’s career he has bypassed Prince to knock off… Lenny Kravitz. A less exacting way to make a living. Headlining Bowery Electric last night, his band played post-Band Of Gypsy’s rock and roll re-filtered through the hard rock crossover of every other mid-70s pub rock band with the blues filtered all the way out. Playing guitar and dressed in rock star bohemian leather, Cymone came across like an old school rock god, with a strutting sense of self even while his biggest hit, “The Dance Electric” was written by Prince, and his second greatest moment he co-wrote for his ex-wife Jody Watley, “Looking For A New Love”. If Cymone’s high energy performance is being graded on the Revolution curve, he had prettiness, smarts , and energy, and even while covering the worst song ever, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (it should have been put to bed after Jeff Buckley nailed it), he at least made it his own. The drummer was excellent by the way, a simple but thumping joy.
If Andre was Lenny Kravitz, Kellindo Parker -Maceo Parker’s nephew, was Trent Reznor via Glenn Branca, noise guitar eccentricities that we haven’t heard in a long while. With the added flourish of a fine violinist. The set was a strange mix and match hindered by songs that didn’t quite pay off, if you want to be Diamanda Gallas, have songs as goth and great as Diamandas Gallas. I sat (stood -nowhere to sit at all) through the first 25 minutes, while the Janelle Monae lead guitarist picked at Hendrix as all black guitarist seem to do today, it is odd because the inventor of the electric guitar for blues format, which morphed into rock, isn’t afforded anywhere near the same ultimate respect through emulation. Not unlike Michael Jackson, the sense is that after ceding Hendrix to white America in his lifetime, they woke up to his Blackness and took him back. Kellindo is a unique presence, his guitar is a finger picked white blues that ascends to noise, and while I remain unconvinced by his material, I admire the heartfelt performance and a closing cover of “Moonage Daydream,” with a superb violin solo and a jammed out outro, had me forgiving all sins.
The difference between the True Groove Allstars and Cymone and Parker, wasn’t simply that the Allstars concluded their performance with a cover of “Funky Dollar Bill”,” placing them in a black lineage that goes back to George Clinton getting booted from the Motown House Band because they didn’t wanna be that free, but that True Groove leader Tomas Doncker began the evening with a Black Power raised fist. The set was taken mostly from Tomas Doncker’s masterpiece, 2015’s The Mess We Made, and it worked as agitprop anger fuelled hard funk blues band par excellence, a relentless set of bangerz and all with its eyes on the corridor of powers as Doncker laments the mess we have made with Malcolm and Martin’s legacy. In the years I’ve followed Doncker’s career he has gone from Ethiopian soul, to classic blues, to black Americana to his current incarnation as a funk rageaholic up against the wall child of punk and post-punk. I mentioned the Clash earlier, and if Big Apple Blues was London Calling, The Mess We Made is Give Em Enough Rope, the subtleties obliterated through sheer willpower. A lot is gained, and if you saw the Clash on the Anarchy In The UK tour you would see one of the few antecedents for the True Groove Allstars hard, relentless, brutal beauty. But some stuff is missed, and what was missed last night was Doncker’s guitar playing. We only got one solo and it was the best solo of the entire evening, a blistering and succinct to the point of brusqueness move, all the more astonishing if you don’t know the band for seeming to come out of nowhere. The performance seconded as a release party for the vinyl release of The Mess We Made. The blacker the berry the better the Allstars…