JJ Grey & Mofro at the Fillmore, 2/21/14
JJ GREY & MOFRO at FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | 2/21/14
This show at the Fillmore offered a full night of funk in various forms, from the cowfunk stomp of Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers to the slick and polished Motown meets Shel Silverstein funk of Keller Williams, culminating with JJ Grey and Mofro's downright spiritual everglades sound. Coming from different regions and influences, the varied styles of a similar genre made for a nonstop entertaining show that brought older blues loving guys, lots of pretty ladies, and the occasional dreadlocked twirling folk together for the sake of experiencing music that cuts to the soul.
When entering the photo pit, photographers were told, "These guys really like to jam, so we are just going to give you the first twenty minutes, instead of the typical first three songs, who knows how long three songs might last." Those words proved to be prophetic, as JJ Grey & Mofro proceeded to wow the crowd with a night of extended funky blues jams and gospel preaching about home and love from the main man himself.
As the band hit the stage decorated with five small lamps on varying heights of tables, you could see huge smiles on everyone's faces; this is a band that just wants to play. The title track from the 2010 album The Sweetest Thing showed Andrew Trube's skills off. The guitarist's passionate leg kick told you he was feeling it. Things were taken down a notch by drummer AC Cole as the outfit went through "Air." Grey sounded like a growling, raspy lounge singer as he strolled the stage with a spotlight centered on him before attention was steered to saxophonist Art Edmaiston as he let loose a blaring sax solo.
On "Tame a Wild One," a newer track from 2013's This River, Grey really belted as the high tempo song continued to grow with each measure in force and magnitude. Sounding like a Stax Records act, the band took things down a notch to let Grey really show off his front porch soulful vocals. The chunky southern rock sounds of "99 Shades of Crazy" brought the energy level back up, before the band launched into its most popular song "Brighter Days." As JJ preached his message, he talked about how crazy the notion that "a leopard can't change his spots" is, saying "a person can't change? Ain't that some bullshit?"
Grey's voice has such conviction that anything he says sounds wise and true, and this was especially evident on tunes like "Ho Cake," in which he basically just listed delicious Southern foods while the audience screamed in rapture. That's talent when you can Bubba Gump your way through a song and make everyone feel like you should have a Grammy for it.
"Slow, Hot and Sweaty" had a killer trumpet solo by Dennis Marion, as Anthony Farrell took the place to church with his organ, building a nice big crescendo and cacophony of noise to the end of the set. For the encore, the outfit pulled out a newer track that started sweet as a lullaby. Throughout the show, the spotlight from the balcony was really being used to good effect. It gave Grey an almost TV evangelist-like feel -- that is if TV evangelists were cool as hell and rocked white pants.