Porter Batiste Stoltz featuring Page McConnell
BB King Blues Club
New York City, NY
Never mind this was my first time seeing PBS live. And just ignore the fact they were playing at my favorite venue in the greatest city in the world, BB Kings Blues Club in NYC. I cannot tell a lie: I had come to see Page McConnell, piano man for the newly-reborn king of jams, Phish. I've only caught Page with Phish, always in front of huge audiences, so naturally I was psyched to see him perform in an intimate setting with a band whose sole purpose is to lay down the funk. And lay it down he did, with a little help from his friends. I heard a couple of comments early on which seem to indicate the first set was somewhat tame, with Page playing in the background. I didn't get that impression at all.
Right out of the gate, "Back in the Basement" was all funk, with Page front and center. You could tell immediately they had come to play, with "Seven Desires" and "Wings" segueing nicely into the first "New York City Jam". We could feel Porter's bombs and Batistes' skins vibrate under our feet as we danced without pause. I ask you: Is there a better rhythm section out there than these two cats? I think not. And Brian Stoltz' leads were right in line, if not out front, as the set progressed. They opted to slow it down a notch with Page singing John Lennon's "Jealous Guy", which I thought was killer. Standing 5 feet away from the man himself didn't hurt, as I truly felt connected to Page for the first time in all the years I've seen him play.
The rest of the set was pure, unadulterated, in your face, funk . From "Funky Miracle" thru the set-closing "New York City Jam 2", the exchanges between the band were mesmorizing (even Dylan's Rainy Day Women had the crowd on their feet). And as the set closed, it was becoming clear to me why the "P" in PBS came first - Porter's riffs lead the way for the others to follow. Nicely done.
Second set was non-stop from start to finish, no shit. And in retrospect, one would feel as though the first set was 'quiet' after listening to the second. They definitely amped it up couple of notches, and as I stood on Stoltz's side for the remainder of the show, I got a real appreciation for his guitar playing. Holy shit - that man can play!!
Some highlights: The funky "Wah Wah Mee", the jam-laden, in-your-face, "I've Been Hoodooed", and the NOLA-inspired "Litta Liza Jane". Once again, Dylan was brought into the mix, with "Rolling Stone", which was good, but not on the level of their playing throughout the evening. They finished strong with "Bring the Flood", but not before Russell Batiste came out before the others and gave us a real treat with some outstanding drumming, with a little freestyle rap thrown in for good measure.
All in all, quite the evening. Bottom line: PBS brings the funk, and they bring it hard. I would advise those not willing to shake their ass for 3 hours to spend the night at home. And as for Page, you could tell he was having the best time of 'em all - all except me, of course.