Send out the riders, the British are coming, and they're packing heat. The four lads from Leeds known as The New Mastersounds opened for J.J. Grey & Mofro, hitting the Ogden Theatre in Denver on Friday night like a punch in the face and sending the crowd home with sore muscles.
Why this four-piece funk band has not literally exploded across the music scene in America like so many WMD's is beyond me, and my only hypothesis can be that like those reclusive targets of Presidential invasion, the damn things are just too hard to find. When they decide to grace the US with their presence, The NMS tend to visit only a handful of locations, saving the bulk of their tour for venues across the pond. Luckily, they have taken to Colorado. Colorado, it seems, is also taking to them.
Not even two years ago, after opening up for the Greyboy Allstars, the band decided to play a set of its own at a smaller venue, generating little local support. The following summer proved a vast improvement, with jam band fans packing the house at the very same venue that the year before had seen less constituents than one could count on two hands. The venue on Friday night was a little bigger and thus warranted a headlining band with a little more of an established following in order to sell the tickets needed to fill the room. Or did it?
Upon entering the the 1,000+ person venue at Colfax and Ogden around 8:45, 15 minutes prior to show time, I asked one of the attendants at the door how many tickets had been sold, his response was as expected, about 600. I'll be damned if that number hadn't doubled within 30 minutes. At precisely 9:00, Eddie Roberts (guitar), Simon Allen (drums), Pete Shand (bass), and the recently added Joe Tatton (Keyboards), came out on stage firing the funk on all cylinders and didn't stop until everyone in the room was spent, nearly an hour and a half later. In short, with all due respect to J.J. Grey, of whom I am a huge fan and for whom I have the utmost respect, the opening act stole the show.
I had the pleasure of securing a prime piece of real estate in the orchestra section, for, having witnessed these boys in action before; I knew what was coming and wanted to assure myself of a good perch. From the first note, those of us who had seen them prior to Friday nodded in approval, turning to each other in agreement, and then to the first-time listeners around, who, mid-conversation with their neighbors, quickly fastened their gazes on the stage, mouth agape, and joined in the groove. As tunes like "Baby Bouncer," a superb rendition of the Meters's classic "Live Wire," and the fan-favorite and perennial closer, "One Note Brown," played, I witnessed more and more the Paul Newman a la Butch Cassidy-esque facial expressions and mouthed words of "Who are those guys?," understanding that as the evening pressed on, Eddie, Simon, Pete and Joe had secured more troops for their ever-growing cavalry.
To say that the band is heavily influenced by The Meters would be an understatement, but there is something about them that sets them apart. Perhaps it is Eddie Robert's incredible dexterity and precision on the guitar, reminiscent of 70's legend, Grant Green, or Tatton's gritty Hammond B3, or Simon's clever introductory remarks made moreso by that delightful Northern English accent, or Shand's utter coooool-ness onstage, or perhaps it is the fact that it is so surprising to hear black music that would make George Clinton himself pause and listen, emanating from the instruments of mostly white players. Furthermore, it would be short-sighted for one to discount the impression a band makes on its audience when it is evident that when they are playing, they are having so much fun they almost look mischievous.
Whatever these fellas are selling, I'm buying it, and I promise you, there is going to be a long line at the store.