Culbertson brings funk to Lyman

Austin Elliott – Contributor

A sold-out performance in the Lyman Center Saturday night from Billboard charting jazz and funk artist Brian Culbertson and his band. The band immediately opened with energetic funk, filled with fancy work on keyboards and saxophone, followed up by an incredible solo from Norris Jones, Culbertson’s guitarist.

The set, being the second in Lyman’s ongoing jazz series, gave vibes of Earth, Wind and Fire or Gerry Rafferty.

The band jumped into funk tune, encouraging the audience to clap along. Audience participation was a key point of the show, as the band encouraged the crowd to join in with the choruses or just to clap along.

While the ticket and advertising primarily mentioned Culbertson as the act, all of the band members each took turns taking the spotlight. From incredible guitar solos to funky bass riffs and even vocal effects reminiscent of Peter Frampton. Culbertson shared the role of vocals the whole time as well with one of the keyboardists and the saxophonist.

The show had many highlights ranging from guitar solos that take your breath away to fantastic trombone-saxophone duets and rapid-fire keyboard playing from Culbertson himself. Culbertson’s playing was a major factor, including playing the keyboard with his back to the audience. Culbertson synced his movements to the music, putting his face closer and closer to the keyboard as he slowly hit key after key, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

Culbertson also took some time to talk about his twenty-four year career, his eighteen albums, and his recent tour to promote his “Colors of Love” album, including a Vegas concert which will be released on Blu-ray next month.

“We’ve been all over the place this year, but there’s nothing like playing on the east coast,” Culbertson said to the audience. “You guys have great energy. You know, you go some places and they just sit there like ‘That’s nice.’”

The set-list was well done as well, featuring original songs dating back to Culbertson’s early work in the 1990s including “Always Remember”, his only song to chart on Billboard. They also performed an as near perfect covers of Kool and the Gang’s “Hollywood Swingin’,” and Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” finishing a spectacular total blackout of the venue.

“I could end the show right there,” Culbertson said after the blackout, “but I’m not going to.”

While the covers were perhaps the most popular songs with the crowd, Culbertson also premiered a new song, titled “Through the Years.”

“I like it already!” a woman down near the front rows yelled, causing both Culbertson and the audience to laugh. The new song, a piano ballad with a slow build, should be out next month according to Culbertson.

The sold out concert was a massive success. The band returned to the stage for an encore of “Our Love” when they really gave it their all.

They could not stick around for long. The band played their next show on Sunday in New Brunswick, NJ, their last until a series of seven straight shows
in London, England. They did promise, however, that they would be back at the Lyman Center next year.

Photo Credit: Austin Elliot

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