Photo by Yusuke Kitamura
A deserving headline set by masters of funk
While the majority of the Fuji Rock crowd was over watching Sigur Ros on the main stage, they missed one hell of a funky party over at the Field of Heaven. Upon first glance at the Fuji Rock schedule I had similar reservations about skipping all of Sigur Ros, but as soon as The New Mastersounds took to the stage I knew I made the right decision. There was no other place I would rather be then jamming out alongside one of the great modern funk bands.
Consider the fact that the New Mastersounds only have 4 members, yet have no problem funking with the best in the business. The true soul of funk finds its way through in all their songs. I’ve listened to more than my share of funk, soul, and jazz, so I know how rare it is that an elite funk band can exist and prosper without a horns section or a singer keeping energy levels high.
It’s really a testament to each member in the group, how long they have been playing together and how well they know their music history. Eddie Roberts is a genius guitar player. He ripped through funky, bluesy, truly soulful guitar solos with ease. He looked like he was having a blast the whole time. He was giddy to be able to play tribute to one of his guitar heroes in the late Melvin Sparks. The band lovingly played through one of Sparks classics. Roberts further mentioned he was currently mixing an album of Sparks unreleased tunes, a project he was clearly taking on for the love of it.
Not to be outmatched, Pete Shand on bass kept the set grooving and when given the chance busted out more than a few blazing solos of his own. Simon Allen on drums was lightening quick and funky as ever. He broke a few pairs of sticks throughout the set but never slowed down. When he was left alone to solo, he enjoyed the moment and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. For me what really completes the band however is Joe Tatton on organ/keys. Without the squealing high pitched, soulful organ sound, funk couldn’t exist. Joe Tatton is highly technical, but exudes a lot of feeling and soul on both organ and keys. He has all his reference points down pat on the organ, but also takes advantage of the new technology the keyboard provides him.
This idea of paying tribute to the past, while not being stale or stuck in old ways of doing things is what really makes the New Mastersounds special. The group was the headlining act, closing down the Field of Heaven stage Friday night. The initial crowd didn’t really do them justice. However as the set went on, the crowd began to swell to a size this group deserved. From a few tracks on, the Field of Heaven crowd was extremely energetic and responsive to anything the band did. It was the best set I’ve seen thus far and raised the bar high.
The band rocked an hour and a half set, they had people dancing, moving, shaking, clapping and grooving all with barely uttering a word. Fittingly, when they left the stage, the audience refused to budge without an encore track or two. This is something pretty rare for festival sets, but New Mastersounds are a rare breed themselves.