Saturday Night (2/6/16) Tower of Power hit the floor running in Harrah’s South Shore Room at Lake Tahoe. The ten piece powerhouse band that came to their own in the 1970’s blasted off in a full sprint with I Like Your Style (1993), Ain’t Nothin’ Stoppin’ Us Now (1976), and You Ought to be Havin’ Fun (1976).
Sometimes you have no choice but to change horses in the middle of the stream.
A horn based band like ToP is a different experience from a guitar based band. Broader arrangements are required to get all those ‘voices’ to work together. If anybody is out of tune, it goes downhill fast. Fortunately for all of us in the room, everybody was in tune all night long.
Front man and lead vocalist Ray Greene was sharp (in the good way), crisp, and clean all night long. He did his job as the front guy wonderfully, talking it up with the crowd, inciting them to clap and sing along, and being an overall joy to listen to. As I was crouching at the front of the stage taking my photographs he was walking along the front edge slapping hands with the crowd. When he got to me he stopped and gave me a pose long enough to snap off one great portrait. Then he grabbed my hand, smiled and kept on singing as he continued along the stage. I would bet my shaky reputation that some of the extra between song banter was to let the horn section catch their breath. After all Lake Tahoe is at over 6,200 feet elevation…thin air…, and Tower of Power has been a band for almost 50 years. Say no more!
Founding member and bandleader Emilio Castillo shared some of the ‘front man’ responsibilities with band introductions, storytelling, and singing. He shined brightly during his singing and presentation of the super funky Diggin’ on James Brown. This is a song that you would swear was written by James Brown. I found this to be one of the high notes of the evening.
It doesn’t matter what I’ve been through,
I’ll still be diggin’ on James Brown.
They ended the body of the show with the guaranteed crowd pleaser, What is Hip from their 1973 self titled (and third) album, Tower of Power. They came back for an encore and played You’re Still A Young Man.
There is no better horn band out there than Tower of Power. The fact that they have endured for 48 years is a testament to that fact. In that many years there have been many changes, and there is one coming along at this very time. The band has announced that as of mid-February lead vocalist Ray Greene will be leaving the band to join up with Carlos Santana. That’s a great place to move to, but it’s also tough to leave home. Time moves on, lineups change. As long as there’s respect and appreciation all the way around it’s all good. Sometimes you have no choice but to change horses in the middle of the stream.
Best of luck Ray.
To see a full photo gallery, click here.
Nick McCabe – Front Row Photo
Tower of Power is:
Emilio Castillo – Tenor Sax
Stephen “Doc” Kupka – Baritone Sax
Rocco Prestia – Bass
David Garibaldi – Drums
Roger Smith – Keyboards
Tom E. Politzer – Lead Tenor Sax
Adolfo Acosta – Trumpet
Jerry Cortez – Guitar
Sal Cracchiolo – Trumpet
Ray Greene – Lead Vocalist
I Like Your Style
Ain’t Nothin’ Stoppin’ Us Now
You Ought To Be Havin’ Fun
Only So Much Oil In The Ground
To Say The Least, You’re The Most
You Got To Funkifize
Just When We Start Makin’ It
Don’t Change Horses (In The Middle Of The Stream)
This Time It’s Real
Diggin’ on James Brown
So Very Hard To Go
What is Hip?
You’re Still A Young Man